Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bigger on the Inside

One of the coolest things about the British sci fi series Dr. Who is the Doctor’s spaceship/time machine. The TARDIS (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) is a police box (about the size of a phone booth—remember those?).

Dr. Who's TARDIS

But that’s just on the outside. On the inside, the TARDIS is palatial, with many large rooms and possibly a swimming pool in the library. As a long parade of mystified visitors and companions have exclaimed in wonder, “It’s bigger on the inside!”

The controls of the TARDIS

The concept of bigger-on-the-inside is sometimes called dimensional transcendence, and it pops up a lot in fantasy stories.

  • For example, do you remember the World Quidditch Cup at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Tri-Wizard Tournament? The Weasleys and Harry stay in tents that are much larger and more luxurious inside than outside, causing Harry to exclaim, “I love magic!”

  • And in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Herminone’s little beaded handbag holds books, tents, and many changes of clothes. The boys were lucky that Hermione planned ahead and packed for their trip.

  • In Patricia McKillips’s Harpist in the Wind, when you climb a certain spiral staircase, you never get any closer to the top—unless the owner decides to let you in. 

  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Zarniwoop has a complete universe in his small office.

Sometimes the trope of “bigger on the inside” is played for a humorous effect, and sometimes for something more profound.

My favorite example of dimensional transcendence comes from The Last Battle, the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. The children enter a small stable that contains all of Aslan’s Country. They are reminded that once on Planet Earth, a stable held Heaven under a bright star—at the birth of Jesus.

But when you think about it, the adult human brain weighs about 2½ to 3 pounds, with a volume of about 1260 cubic centimeters in men and 1130 in women. Not very big. Unless you’re comparing it to the brain of a Stegosaurus, which was about the size of a lime.

And yet, our minds hold galaxies, paradoxes, stories, symphonies, the accumulated memories and knowledge of a lifetime. A sudden smell or a melody can unlock some hidden and forgotten memory we would have thought lost and inaccessible.

Where and how do we store the knowledge of how to play Chopin on the piano? Or how to write a story or a poem? Or how to compete at sports at the Olympics level? Sometimes we can even do things we don’t know how to do! We human beings are so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. 

Marianne Moore wrote a poem that says:

The mind is an enchanting thing is an enchanted thing, like the glaze on a katydid-wing subdivided by sun till the nettings are legion.

Our minds are amazing, with so many "nettings" and interconnections. And our spirits are amazing too. The Apostle Paul said,

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. --  II Cor. 4:7 New Living Translation

We are like clay pots that don't always look very impressive on the outside. But on the inside. . .we are so much bigger.

Image Credits:
  TARDIS - Author: Chris Sampson;
  TARDIS Controls - Author: Chris Sampson;
  Nativity Scene - Author: Photo: Andreas Praefcke;
  Skull with brain - Author: Images generated by Life Science Databases(LSDB);
  Ranunculus in blue pot - © Can Stock Photo / Neirfy:
  Clay pot with flowers - © Can Stock Photo / Elenarts

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Real Super Hero: Dad

Reprinted from June 16,  2012

Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Oh, never’s just Dad cleaning out the gutters.

He can’t fly. He can’t morph into the Hulk. He can’t spin spider webs from his wrists. Some mornings, he can’t even find the car keys.

But Dad is a super hero, nonetheless, and he does have super powers. Some of which may include. . .

  • Leaps from bed in a single bound--to go to a job he hates, to provide for a family he loves
  • Walks the floor with a collicky baby
  • Fixes a clogged toilet, armed with only a wrench, a plumber’s snake, and duct tape (Sure it might take him three tries, but he gets 'er done--clean-up is optional.)
  • Gives his newborn a baseball glove, a soccer ball, a hockey puck, and a hunting rifle--and that's for a girl!
  • Tells bedtime stories, complete with character voices and alternate endings
  • Adds marshmallows to Cheerios--voila!--instant haut cuisine!

• Gives up his poker night in order to see his son as a singing porcupine in the school production of “Forest Creatures Are Our Friends”

• Comes home from work dog tired but still works on the car (aka "the money pit")
• Takes the kids to church, instead of just sending them
• Stays up all night Christmas Eve putting the dollhouse or bicycle together--with parts to spare!
• Wears a feathered hat while hosting a tea party for three little girls and a stuffed walrus

So maybe he can’t fly, but when you’re little, he can lift you up in his arms and help you fly.

He may not use “church words” when the hammer hits his thumb. But sometimes he knows just what to say to make the monsters disappear from your room at night.

He may not always know the answers to the "stupid questions" on your homework, but someday you’ll be amazed at how smart he really was.

A good dad is someone you never forget. Even when you grow up and become a dad or a mom yourself. Even when he’s no longer around, he will speak to you from beyond the grave:

     “You’re not hurt. Get back on that bike and ride.”

     “Look a bully right in the eye.”

   “Always wash out your brushes when you’re done painting.”

     “Because I said so.”

     “Hey, you’re not gonna leave that mess for your mom to clean up, are you?”

     “Don’t worry, Honey. I can fix it.”

     “I love you, Son.”

The Stark Raving Mythopath salutes the unsung super heroes, dads all around the world. You guys are freakin’ awesome! You are the stuff of legends, Warrior Dads on the battlefield of  family life. Happy Father’s Day!

Photo Credits
    A deploying soldier says goodbye - Author:  Walter Singleton;
        released into the Public Domain by the author;
    Kid with dimples - Author: Nagarjun;
    Dad giving kids breakfast: © Can Stock Photo /monkeybusiness;
    Little boy with dimples - 
         confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0;
    Father/son walking in the sand - Author:  Gugatchitchinadze;
    Father and child by the sea - Source: Unsplash;
        The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated 
         the work to the public domain.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

This Train

"This train don't carry no gamblers, this train."

A whole succession of famous folk, jazz, and country singers have performed the song "This Train" through past decades. Singers like Peter, Paul, and Mary; Randy Travis; Louis Armstrong; Bo Diddly; Sister Rosetta Tharp; Johnny Cash; Bunny Walker; Bob Marley; Woodie Guthrie; Ricky Nelson; Pop Winans; and many more. Pretty much a Who's Who of the music business.

According to which version you hear, this train "don't carry" no gamblers or liars or rustlers. No sidestreet walkers or two-bit hustlers. No racists. No jokers. No tobacco chewers or cee-gar smokers. 

Because this train is bound for Glory. And basically, nobody can ride this train but "the righteous and the holy." Which kind of leaves the rest of us standing at the station, looking lost and forlorn.

I love trains and I love the catchy tune of this song. But I'm so glad I don't share the theology of these lyrics. 

Jesus said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). 

I know I'm on a train bound for Glory. But this train don't carry nobody BUT gamblers, ramblers, low-lifes, and sinners. Sidestreet walkers and cigar smokers? Oh, yes! Liars, gossips, and adulterers are welcome. People with a past? Welcome to the First Class section of this train.

It's rather like the musical The Greatest Showman, when P. T. Barnum (something of a Christ-figure in this story) scours the countryside, rounding up all the freaks and misfits he can find. A bearded lady. A contortionist. Folks who are too big or too tiny or too unusual for polite society. Barnum gives them all honor and respect and a job to do in his new circus -- a reserved seat on his circus train.

Because the name of this train is Grace. It's not by our own works but only by the grace of God that any of us is ever bound for Glory.

And this is the craziest and most surprising plot twist in all of human history. It's the greatest story ever told.

"...Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life" (John 3:16).


Photo credits:
    Cartoon train - © Can Stock Photo / umnola;
    Gamblers - Title: "The Cheaters," oil on canvas;
       Source/Photographer Mathieu Le Nain;
       This work is in the public domain in its country of origin 
        and other countries and areas where the copyright 
        term is the author's life plus 100 years or less;
    Train in Colorado - Author Richard Fogg - owner/Howard Fogg - artist;
        Permission: The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it 
        for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed;
    Antique train - © Can Stock Photo / C_L_Fox;
    Greatest Showman - theatrical poster;
    Girl at Train Station - © Can Stock Photo / NomadSoul1.


Monday, June 4, 2018

What Did You Do Today?

I sort of wish my friends would quit asking me, “So, Stark Raving Mythopath, what did you DO today?” 

Why don't they ask me something easier, like "What's the square root of pi?" Or "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

What did I do today? So often I hem and haw and try to think of something to say. It’s usually writer friends who ask this question, and so I know that the expected answer has something to do with writing. Did I work on a story? A poem? A blog post? Research? Sharpen my pencils? Anything remotely related to writing? 

Or that failing, did I clean house or paint the living room or volunteer at a soup kitchen or make my own soap? 

Hand-made soap. Made it this morning. . .I wish!

Did I embroider new couch pillows or learn to play the French horn? 

Um, which end do I blow into?

Maybe I directed an off-Broadway musical or coached a girls volleyball team? (Yeah, right!) Or reorganized all the closets and cooked ahead for the week? 

Surely I DID something!

The volleyball team I coached. . .in my dreams!

I really don’t want to tell them the truth. That some days I don’t do much at all. There, I said it. What's worse, I really don't feel bad about it!

I do believe that I should try to forge ahead to finish the two books I'm working on. And write the occasional post for this blog. I try to hop on the treadmill most days and do some reading to exercise my flabby mind. I also read my Bible and pray. 

And some days I do a lot of writing and editing and planning.

But some days I just don't do much of anything. And I think that's okay sometimes. Not every day. But some days I seem to stare out the window into the vanishing point. Until the day itself vanishes.

But often, it's while "doing not much" that ideas come. Some pretty dumb ideas. And some really brilliant ideas. Some where-in-the-world-did-that-come-from-? ideas. Some how-did-I-ever-live-without-this-? ideas. 

Ideas for a story. For a poem. For how to re-arrange the closets (if I ever get get around to doing it). For how to take in that long skirt and add pockets at the same time. For how to be rich and famous. (The latter, alas, generally don't work.) Or the answer to the eternal question: what's for dinner?

The trick is to have a good system or at least some system to record and organize all these ideas. At home, where a computer is usually available, I have a spreadsheet. Away from home, there's a notebook in my purse. And in bed at night  in the ultimate posture of "doing nothing"  I just hope I'll remember the next day.

Mythopath jotting down ideas

The poet Archibald MacLeish wrote:
A poem should not mean
But be

And I think that sometimes. . .
A person should not do
But be
But be prepared. With your body relaxed, your batteries recharged, and your mind at rest, ideas may happen.

Image Credits:
   Woman with writing utensils - Woman with wax tablets and stylus 
     (so-called "Sappho") portrays a high-society Pompeian woman,
     This raster graphics image was created with Adobe Photoshop CS
     Photographer: Carole Raddato; 
  House Cleaning Cartoon - by H G Peter that appeared on "The Modern Woman" 
     page of Judge Magazine, 6 February 1915, Source Judge Magazine,
     Author: H G Peter; this media file is in the public domain in the 
     United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, 
     often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923  
  Hand-made soap - Soap made from shea butter;  Author: Marco Schmidt;
  French horn - Author: BenP;
  Volleyball team - Author: Hobbs21;
  Girl at window - English: Owings Mills, United States; Author: 
      Kate Williams kmw152;
  Woman writing - oil painting by Adelaide Labille Guiard;  in the public domain 
      in countries where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years;
     Statue of woman thinking - "la Pensadora" by José Luis Fernández in Oviedo, 
      Asturias, Spain;  Author: ÁWá;