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Protestant Christians often recommend that we ask ourselves “What Would Jesus Do?” before committing to action. The idea behind this simple screening device is to put ourselves in the shoes of the nicest guy that ever was (please use Buddha, if he’s your pick). If he (or she) would do it, then you are certainly good to go.

I’m an agnostic, but I have to admit that this is a pretty nifty little trick. For one thing, it takes you outside of yourself and away from your personal demons, including those pesky animal urges. Then it asks you to be as nice as you can imagine being. You don’t have to believe in God to think that might be a good approach to decision-making.

The trick also encourages you to reach beyond your grasp, which is also thought to be a good idea. Jesus may have been a man, but he was also a God. He had superpowers like walking on water, controlling the weather, and raising people from the dead. We are never going to be able to live up to that guy’s standards, but by trying we might accomplish some wonders of our own.

Still, if you are an agnostic you might have a hard time finding an appropriate model. And if you are an atheist (someone who, I am told, is absolutely certain that there are no deities) it might be even harder.

I’ve never met anyone with superpowers, though there are plenty of people who can amaze me with what they can do. That said, I don’t necessarily want to emulate someone just because they can balance five chairs on the tip their nose or solve a Rubik’s Cube in seven seconds. Also, most of the people in the Top Ten of Nice People are devoutly religious. Where does that leave me as a person who doesn’t believe in God? I’m never going to be as nice as Mother Teresa just by trying to do the right thing.

So is there some other way to get there? Is there some non-religious High Standard you can shoot for and therefore catapult yourself into the Top Ten? (Hypothetically, at least — I don’t know if I would have the energy to be that good.)

Well, how about this: WWUD? What Would the Universe Do?

At first blush, this may seem like a bad idea. Non-believers often see the universe as a vast, cold emptiness that does not care about the puny bits of protoplasm wiggling around on a tiny speck of dust in the Milky Way. That doesn’t seem like an attitude we’d want to adopt in our own lives. On the other hand, think of the upside. If the universe doesn’t care about us, then it’s not out to get us, either. There is no all-powerful force trying to make our existence more unpleasant. No Satan, in other words.

What’s more, the universe doesn’t seem to care about itself either. All it is concerned with is being, and — if you accept the current thinking about what black holes are up to — creating more universes. It’s a pretty simple formula, really: live life to the fullest by exploding supernovas, colliding galaxies, and spawning life all over yourself, but maintain your ultimate focus on the generations of existence that will live on long after you have died from the complications of entropy.

To me, that seems like a pretty good plan. Be, in the fullest sense, and do it with an eye to posterity. The universe doesn’t need to perform miracles in the manner of Jesus Christ because the universe is itself a miracle. If you ask WWUD?, that’s the shining example you’ll get back from the void.
What It Is
I had to cancel the presentation of my paper to the annual conference of the IAAA. It was a difficult decision, especially since I am on the board of the Intergalactic Association of Armchair Astrophysicists.

I had planned to detail my most recent work establishing the Pulsating Nodes Theory (PNT) as the appropriate visual metaphor for everything-that-there-is. My research, however, has uncovered some new findings that have led me to abandon that formulation. My apologies to my brothers and sisters in the Association. I promise you that my search for imaginary truth will not end here.

Still, I do not make this change of mind without some regrets. The PNT remains, in many ways, an apt analogy to the concepts that mere science has brought to the table of lay understanding. It imagines all existence as a 4-dimensional “mist” of pulsating nodes, each of which “blinks” (pulsates) at its own unpredictable rhythm, offering us a vision of a shimmering, layered cloud of multiverses existing beyond even meta-time.

A beautiful image, yes (especially if we had eyes to see beyond our three pathetic little dimensions), but I cannot sustain my support for this visualization. My communications with members of the other IAAA (International Alliance of Actual Astrophysicists) have opened my eyes to some inconvenient truths that undermine my theory. One concerns the Red Shift discovered by the astronomer Edwin Hubble over 90 years ago. The logical extrapolation from this phenomenon is that our immediate universe will continue to expand — with the rate of expansion actually speeding up — until it runs of of “gas,” leaving an unimaginably huge dead thing where once there was life and energy and light.

Not only is that a depressing prospect, it runs counter to the fundamental premise of the Pulsating Nodes Theory. The PNT posits a universe that expands, then contracts on itself, over and over again. Ours, along with an infinite number of other universes, would go on like this forever, thereby producing the light show of an infinite number of Big Bangs illuminating the cosmic fog of Is/Is not.

I have struggled (just as brother Einstein did) to explain away the Red Shift. Some of my friends in IAAA #2 were with me in this effort, including Christof Wetterich, a theoretical physicist at the University of Heidelberg. Chris proposed that the apparent shift was caused, not by an expansion of the universe, but by a change in mass in the observed phenomena. Such a change could mimic the symptoms of an expanding universe, thereby allowing the PNT conception to remain viable. I am sorry, Chris, but I cannot continue this charade any longer.

I had also clung to the hope that the hypothetical existence of white holes might somehow save the PNT from the junk pile. But no. The whole white hole idea felt like a desperate conspiracy theory aimed at denying the obvious: this universe (like all multiverses) will end up becoming nothing more than a vast headstone on its own grave, cold and dark and dead forever. The PNT might as well be buried there too.

There are some new hypotheses coming out of IAAA #2, however, that give me hope for a new meta-metaphor. I am calling it, for now, the Bubbling Multiverse Stew Theory. Indiana University physicist Nikodem Poplawski has cranked out some mathematical models suggesting that black holes represent other, newer universes a-birthing right here in our own. Those universes would not be included in our dead zone, but rather would live separate lives of their own. Those fledgling multiverses would end by producing their own self-made cemeteries, but on a different clock than ours. And, like this one, they would be creating new universes through their black holes.

It is as if each multiverse is a morsel of food in the Big Stew of eternal is-ness, and each bit is fully cooked in its own good time. Some bits are hunks of meat, others are celery or carrot or a pinch of spice. (I like to think of our universe, incidentally, as nice piece of lamb shank.) New morsels are being added all the time to this Eternal Crockpot, but eventually every ingredient becomes part of the broth.

Or whatever. As you can see, I’m still working on the Bubbling Multiverse Stew Theory (including the name). But I think it has promise as something-we-can-grasp as an explanation for everything-that-there-is. Watch this space/time.
Toke Up, Woke Up
Yes, it is true that we live in troubled, dangerous times. Chaos, mendacity, and willful ignorance are ascendant. Community has given way to individual aggrievement. The specter of oppression looms like a many-headed Hydra over our liberal democracy.

It is also true that we all know these things, so what is the sense in dwelling on them? We have to fight the darkness at every turn, yes, but if we become obsessed with this ugliness, then it will drag us down with it. We will need to be there, whole and ready, when the tsunami of stupid blows over and reason returns at last. So look on the bright side, I say. Light up that big Pollyanna doobie and take a nice, long hit. That’s it…now kick back…let go of the dread…cast your mind forward to a better time and a better world. It looks pretty good to me — in large part because of Donald J. Trump and his enablers.

Hear me out. Who is to say that reliable print media could have survived without the rise of fake news and strategic lying? Subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post have soared during this period because, all of a sudden, the value of truth has become so obvious. Newspapers were at the brink of death until the rising tide of bullshit made them indispensible. And that tide flows right out of the President’s mouth.

Similarly, the latest step forward in gender equality would not have happened so soon were it not for the harasser-in-chief. Millions of women were so outraged by his election that they came together in the #metoo movement and demanded that things must change. And they have changed — years before they might have. I’m not ready to thank His Repellency for that, but his rise to power has certainly clarified our thinking and galvanized us into action.

Activism itself, such a vital force within any free society, has been energized. People with strong opinions on every subject are stepping up to be heard, and violence does not seem to be a part of this trend. These movements — like the Parkland student uprising and the teacher strikes — are about righteousness, not partisan advantage. We need them. In fact, I predict that there is a healing coming for all of us. There’d better be, or none of us will survive on this shrinking, increasingly afflicted planet. Trumpsters, no matter how exasperated you may be with them, had to be brought inside the circle. They have been marginalized or ignored for too long, and we can’t afford to leave anybody behind. None of this could have happened so quickly if the last election had gone as expected. It’s the Trump Effect, and it came just in time.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s the doobie talking. And maybe you’re right, but we’ll never get anywhere by mainlining the opioid of despair. And so, I call your attention the bright side: our society was due for an upgrade anyway. If we keep our heads straight and seize the opportunity provided by this near-death experience, the Age of Aquarius is just around the corner.

Care for another toke?
Facebooks Balanced?
Zuck took our secrets
And he made out quite nicely
Then he spilt the beans
So do we get a slicely?
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee