Million Dollar Baby

A Canadian couple recently decided to take a vacation to the United States.  Being aware of our healthcare system here, she bought insurance from Blue Cross before leaving.  The woman was pregnant but wasn’t due for nine weeks.  After consulting with her doctor, he gave her the ok that she’d be fine.

A few days after getting here, her water broke, and she ended up having her baby earlier than expected.  Both her and her baby had to remain in intensive care for several weeks.  They’re both fine now, but then the family got a bill for $950,000 from the Hawaiian hospital.  Blue Cross then weaseled their way out of it by saying, “Oh, she had a preexisting condition.  We don’t have to pay.”

Her Canadian doctor back home wrote Blue Cross saying, “No, she didn’t have any sort of preexisting condition.  I checked her out before she left.”  Did the listen?  No.  They don’t want to deal with it.

The rest of the world just stares at us and thinks, “Americans are insane.”  Ana of Young Turks tells a story where she went to Spain and twisted her ankle.  She just visited the hospital there and they took care of her, no questions asked and no bill.  And like I said in my last post, those countries spend half as much as we do, and that’s how their healthcare system works — you just walk in and they take care of you.

Like Ana, I wouldn’t recommend any foreigner to vacation here.  If you get sick, it will totally destroy your life.  You’ll get a massive bill you could never pay, and it’ll wipe you out financially, taking everything you have.  Your home, your savings, and everything else you own is at risk the second you step into our border.  It’s not worth it.

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Political Rant

If you live here in the United States, you’re probably already well aware that our healthcare system is completely broken.  If you want to hear a really sad fact, international charitable organizations have been coming into our country to provide healthcare to the millions of people who are uninsured.  We’ve been deemed as remote as Haiti and Guyana in terms of access to medical care, at least in certain areas of our country.

As Thanksgiving approaches, thousands of people crowd into New York City parking lots, waiting for days in the cold, hoping to see a dentist, get their eyes checked, and receive basic healthcare.  And if you’ve checked the weather lately, you’ll notice that it’s below freezing and there’s snow on the ground.

A typical picture is that of a poor American (students, the unemployed, minimum wage workers, etc) having to suffer from a rotting tooth, waiting in line for days in a cold parking in the middle of November, hoping to see a volunteer British dentist.  Others wait with their  young children, sleeping in sleeping bags to avoid the long lines, hoping to be first to enter the make-shift tent with the volunteer French optometrist who can get their child the glasses he or she needs to see the blackboard at school.

And you know what?  Republicans have an answer to this.  That young seven year old boy squinting his eyes because he can’t read his textbook needs to learn responsibility!  Suffering will teach him to show up on time.  These young boys and girls need to mop those floors after school and buy what they need!  He’ll learn to take pride in his school.

We can get rid of minimum wage laws and work the little guys for $1.50 an hour.  After all, they’re nowhere near as good as an adult janitor.  If they want more, they’ll have to prove themselves.  And if they work for the entire school year, saving every penny and dime, maybe then they can get their pair of glasses they need to see.

You know who Newt Gingrich reminds me of?  Mr. Bumble from Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist.


“Please sir, I’d like some more.”


Whhaattttttt!?  MMOOOoooorrreeeeee!?  Catch him!  Snatch him!  Hold him!  Scold him!  

If you watch that video above, take notice to the big “God Is Love” painted on the wall.

We’re the wealthiest nation on Earth yet we have 41 million Americans without health insurance.  We’re heading in the right direction with the Affordable Care Act.  Sure, it has problems, but we need to expand Medicare to take care of these people.  Sadly, in recently elections, Republicans have taken majorities in both branches of Congress and they’ve assured us that they’re going to repeal all the progress we’ve made.  What happens next is sort of up in the air.

And what’s the Republican agenda for our country?  From what I gather, they plan on cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, ship out the immigrants, and deploy more troops in the Middle East to fight ISIS.  How that’s going to balance the budget, I have no clue.  Cut taxes when we have a 500 billion dollar deficit?   (On the bright side, at least we’re not running trillion dollar deficits like we were a few years ago.)


No, at a bare minimum we need to keep taxes where they are, but preferably even higher.  Then we need to drastically cut spending as well, but mostly from an extremely bloated defense department.  We really don’t need to spend more money than the rest of the world combined when it comes to defense.


And I’m sorry to tell you all, there’s far more pressing issues to deal with than whether or not Bill Cosby raped a woman thirty years ago.  Yes, it’s awful, but don’t you realize that it’s all a distraction?  Wall Street has not been reformed.  They’re still up to the same tricks that took our economy down in 2008.  We’re still spending trillions of dollars in the Middle East, building bases, bombing desert villages, and chasing terrorist rebels who knows where.  Student loans have surpassed credit card and all other forms of debt, outside of mortgages.


And speaking of healthcare, look at this chart.


If that beast isn’t tamed, we’re in for some serious trouble.  It’s really sad that when we try to reform healthcare, even a little, this giant propaganda machine kicks in, everyone gets confused, all sorts of misleading statistics are presented from all sides, and nobody knows what’s going on.

The fact is that other major countries with “government healthcare” spend half what we do, and are able to provide healthcare to every one of their citizens.  Many will argue, “The government can’t do anything!”  But that simply isn’t true.  All over the world, healthcare is provided to every one of their citizens and it doesn’t break their budget.


Not only do we have a much larger GDP, but we spend way more of it on healthcare.  I’ve always been puzzled as to why we can’t cut our healthcare spending in half from 16% to 8% of GDP through good reforms.  I’m really tired of excuses.

And what’s up with our old people?


It’s beyond frustrating because there’s nothing I can do.  I just have to sit and watch it unfold.


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A Modern Day Adventurer

I’ve heard that the British naturalist David Attenborough is the most well traveled man living today.  If you’re not familiar with him, he’s been making nature television programs for over sixty years.

attenborough (1)

Insects to whales, flowers to termite mounds, he’s made films documenting every imagineable form of life across all geographic areas of the globe.  Without a doubt, they’re the best of the genre.  If it wasn’t for his work, I wouldn’t know half of what I know about wildlife.  Even at 88 years old, he’s just as active as he’s ever been.

Attenborough 001_article

A Youtuber compiled some of his greatest moments along with some memorable stories.  It’s sure to put a smile on your face.

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A World Created By Our Questions

The physicist Niels Bohr was one of the founders of quantum mechanics.  It’s fascinating to learn that on his death bed, just hours before passing on, he told his friends that the deepest realization he’d ever learned throughout his life was that we are creating this reality by the questions that we ask and by what we choose to think about.

In other words, this world is not a spectator sport.  We’re building our universe as we go along.  You can hear about it in this documentary here.  If you want to just hear the conclusion, jump to time 38 mins.

Albert Einstein couldn’t believe that.  He asked the question, “If a person such as a mouse looks at the universe, does that change the state of the universe?”  Apparently so!

The film ends with some of Bohr’s philosophical remarks, “We must look toward thinkers like Buddha and Lao Tzu, who tried to harmonize our position both as spectators and as actors in the great drama of existence.”

All of this brings even greater importance to a quote from the astrophysicist Carl Sagan.


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Does Life Need Meaning?

It’s been a month since my last post.  Geez!  Actually, I’ve been too immersed in my studies of particle physics to take the time to write any blog posts.  I also got rather involved in a few video games, so I apologize for neglecting all of you!

I want to pick up on the conversation I was having with Michael.  Let’s abandon all the jargon and terms I had come up with in past posts.  I can’t stand jargon, even if I came up with it.  We’ll instead begin with a short talk by Alan Watts where he discusses this life and our search for meaning.

In this video, you’ll hear him say this:

 “So often when one listens to the beautiful character of the Baroque composers, Bach, or Vivaldi, it is felt to be significant not because it means something other than itself, but because it is so satisfying as it is.  And we use then this word ‘significance’ so often in those moments when our impetuous seeking for fulfillment cools down and we give ourselves a little space to watch things, as if they were worth watching.”

– Alan Watts

Many of Vivaldi’s compositions are practically perfect.  The conscious experience you have when you listen to the music feels complete, polished, and finished.  It doesn’t need fixed or fine tuned.  It’s almost as if you see the image of God through that music.  If you were to enter the throne room of God, and you asked Him to play you something, he’d play something like that Vivaldi composition.

Finding those diamonds of perfect experience in the rough of life is very challenging.  Undergoing this search in any creative endeavor seems to send you through these oscillating stages, bouncing back and forth, trying to converge on these eternal diamonds.  Like if I was composing music, you’d hear me flailing away on the piano, saying to myself, “No this isn’t it.”  So I’d keep trying different notes in varying patterns, hoping to stumble onto this “something”.  I’d keep at it, and slowly converge as close as I could to it.


Imagine that straight line is the “perfect” song, and the temporary song I’m working on is the curved line.  If you were to ask me what the perfect song was, I’d have no clue, but as I flailed away, somehow and in some way, I’d know I hadn’t found it yet.  Even still, in many cases I can get closer and closer and converge on it with practice, hard work, and mental effort.

I’m not a musician, but if I was, I would be having all sorts of experiences of playing the notes as I worked on each new compositions.  None of those experiences would feel complete.  They’d be lacking in perfection.  They would all be pointing to something else which I could feel inside of me.  All of my work in the studio would just be intermediary steps to find what I’m after.  However, if I stayed at it long enough, I may finally converge on that melody, that perfect sequence of notes, and then I would exclaim, “A ha!  This is it!”

I find it really interesting that this very thing is what St. Thomas Aquinas meant when he described our world as fallen.  Those “perfect”, complete, fulfilling experiences, they’re images of God.  Somehow God has been buried and hidden, but sometimes we uncover a small part of His existence.

It’s as if we’re all fragments of God trying to put ourselves back together.  The rest of our body is buried and scattered all over, hidden within a complicated maze of disorder, which we have to sift through.  That’s what it means to be “lost”.  It’s to be separated from this divine essence.  It’s to be separated from this deep, true perfect beauty which has always existed.

Aquinas argues that we can never put ourselves back together in this temporal life, but we can only glimpse fragments of what we should be.  Temporal happiness can never fulfill every desire because of this ‘dross’ obscuring our vision of God.  This dross is ‘evil’.

“In this life every evil cannot be excluded.  For this present life is subject to many unavoidable evils: to ignorance on the part of the intellect; to inordinate affection on the part of the appetite; and to many penalties on the part of the body….Likewise, neither can the desire for good be satiated in this life.  For man naturally desires the good which he has to be abiding.  Now the goods of the present life pass away, since life itself passes away…Wherefore it is impossible to have true happiness in this life.”

– St. Thomas Aquinas

And what does Aquinas argue is true happiness?  It is “the vision of the Divine Essence, which men cannot attain in this life.”  We are only as happy to the degree that we partake in the divine essence.  On earth, there can be only a beginning “in respect of that operation whereby man is united to God….In the present life, in as far as we fall short of the unity and continuity of that operation, so do we fall short of perfect happiness.”

The divine vision would be a series of conscious experiences which are all perfectly done, always beautiful, always infused with joy, excitement, and ecstasy – never ending, unceasing, an infinite stream of pure joy, beauty, and perfection.  That’s what we want.

We all have an inner craving to be reunited with such a conscious stream.  It’s almost as if we wish God would come down with a filter and sift away all the garbage from this world, leaving behind only those divine diamonds of experience, like Vivaldi’s musical compositions.

My father likes to play bluegrass music, so I grew up hearing songs like this one.  This whole discussion reminds me of it.  I’ve always loved bluegrass.

I can’t say what this life feels like for others, but for me, I feel like I’m equipped with a sort of inner sonar system.  I look around me and I’m almost completely surrounded by things which are poorly put together.  I then tune into this sonar and it leads me to small glimpses of a perfect world beyond, and I find myself asking, “Why aren’t more things like this?” In his Ethics, Spinoza writes, “All noble things are as difficult as they are rare.”  I don’t want to live in a world where they’re rare or difficult.  I want to live in a world where I don’t need to search.  I want that divine perfection to be all around me at all times, infused in every experience I have.  That, to me, is the quest for meaning in life, and the older I get, I do believe it’s too much to ask for in this human life.  That inner feeling makes me feel a stranger, belonging elsewhere.

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