Day 95

Time Distancing … or where Einstein went wrong

I have often said – but not often enough, apparently – that if you want a peek into the mind of God, you should listen carefully to children’s conversations and questions. Male Teenager #2 came up with this cracker of a thought experiment the other day. Actually, he did not pose it as an experiment; he stated it as fact because, being a teenager, he knows everything and has no need of suppositions.

Says he to me on one of his breaks from being plugged into the interwobble through his blue-tooth (no idea what that means) headphones (not earphones, note: Male Teenager #2 does not care for earphones), “Do you know that if you got in a rocket and went enough light years away from Earth and then looked back at it through a telescope, you would see dinosaurs roaming about the planet?” Please refrain, as I did, from picking holes in this scenario, and just think about it for a while, and the science that the wee lad’s brain has picked up from somewhere in order to be able to state the scenario coherently.

A) He gets the fact that when we look up at the stars at night (it is generally better to do this at night), what we are seeing is not the stars as they are right now, but as they were some time in the past, given the fact that it takes a while for the light from the stars to reach our eyes. Quite a while, in some instances. So he knows that some of the stars we are looking at now in our present may not actually exist any more in our present, but we still see them as it takes a certain amount of time for the light they emit to get to us.

B) He extrapolates from this that, instead of being on the Earth looking up at the stars, if we were out there among the stars looking back at the Earth, what we would be seeing is the Earth not as it is in our present out there among the stars, but as it was some time in its past.

C) Instead of using this extrapolation to practise the much-neglected skill of predicting past events (copyright, Myles na Gopaleen), Male Teenager #2 reasons further that, in order to see dinosaurs, all you need to do is to get far enough away from the Earth so that the light you are seeing through your massive telescope is from the Earth so far in the past that it is the one that had the dinosaurs running about on it.

That’s a bit of mind-flip for a Sunday, isn’t it?

Any excuse for a mind-flip, Brad

I am considering uploading the statement to the wee lad’s Google Classroom with the following note: Dear Wee Lad’s Science Teacher, While wee lad did not actually do much of the work you uploaded for him to do while he was hiding at home from covidnovid, have a look at what he actually did come up with through his own research on the interwobble. I feel it displays a certain grasp of Einstein’s mistaken pronouncements on the relativity of Time as well as a nascent understanding of the dynamics of physics relevant to space travel. As such, I would expect nothing less than an A grade in his Summer report, notwithstanding the fact that he has completed little or none of the work set for him. Signed: The Wee Lad’s Daddy.

Summer, you see? Apparently it is Summer in this hemisphere, but Winter if you are reading this in the Southern Hemisphere. As for whether it is the start of Summer (as the Brits mistakenly think) or the middle of Summer (as the Irish language correctly tells us it is), is a debate for another day. [Those call-backs? And there’s another one; have you done your homework? – Ed.] (Not yet, and school is nearly out for Summer.) [Could we have that video please? – Ed.] (Oh, all right; I’m in a good mood cos it’s Sunday.)

So, although it is 21 June, 2020, in both hemispheres, it is Winter in one of them and Summer in the other, and neither really if you happen to be in one of the regions on Earth that does not really have seasons. See, Einstein? It is not just Time that is relative, it is the weather too. And, as it happens, one word has aspects of both in the aul tongue, namely aimsir, as in aimsir chaite, aimsir ghnáthláithreach etc and the aimsir that you see out your window when you look properly out your window.

Back to God, it being Sunday and all and there still being no hurling to distract us. I have told you before that Time is an illusion [have you?- Ed.](maybe not here, but surely they are doing research and reading my other writings?), and it certainly is if you are God. (You are not God, by the way, in case of any confusion.) As the wee lad’s scenario pointed out, all you need to do for all possible presents of Earth to be available to you, is to adjust your distance from Earth; a mere bagatelle of a trick for God, who is currently so far away from Earth that he has apparently left us up to our own devices.

As for the holes in the wee lad’s scenario, if you have not worked them out yet, leave a comment, or email me. But do not tell him!

p.s. I am aware that the wee lad could have just cut and pasted the whole scenario from the interwobble into his conversation without having gone through the thought processes above, but I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt; he is only 12 after all.


Day 28

Social Distancing

After the quick skite up to Donegal, and the welcome no traffic jam on the way back because of the whole no Toome Fair bonus to the Covid-19 calamity, it’s back to biscuits today as this is a work work day. Yeah, we only get two days off for Easter; that is hardly adequate time to ponder the unfathomable mysteries of the workings of the mind of a god who would send his only son down here, let him hang out with us for about 33.2 years, arrange things so that the son gets killed in such a way that he fulfills all the prophecies about same in the best-selling first volume of The Human Race: My Part in its Downfall, resurrect him three days (but actually only about 36.7 hours) later and thus, potentially, re-open the gates of paradise to us which were closed to us after that business with the serpent and the woman and the kumquat. (It wasn’t an apple: look it up yourselves.) I bet you if we were Muslims we would get a whole week off work. But, then again, Muslims would probably deserve the rest more as they, at least, put some effort into their Lent. Giving up sweets? What sort of suffering is that? Sure that is good for you. Do something hard like taking up heroin for Lent and then trying to quit after the Mass on Holy Thursday night when Lent ends (nihil obstat). I’ll let you know how I am getting on with the yearly cold turkey.

On a work work day, my routine goes a bit like this:

5.53am: Position myself at the kitchen table facing out the bay window to keep an eye on my wildlife, first cup of coffee primed in easy reach of my left hand, an adequate supply of cigarettes clearly visible (to avoid any panic) beside the freshly-polished, cut-glass ashtray on my right. The wildlife mostly takes care of itself, but I am convinced that it appreciates my benevolent, supervisory gaze. To a non-observant observer, it may well look like I am just staring out a window doing nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth. And, as my mate Blaise Pascal often says anyway, the inability to do nothing is the source of all of men’s unhappiness, and who am I to argue with a mathematician?

5.57-6.04am: Coughing.

6.05am: Admiring my shed and the decision taken to situate it at the bottom of the garden under the sweeping branches of the oak tree where it looks really cute. Inspection, from a distance, of the shed serves also as an aide-memoire for the growing list of practical jobs around the estate that I am not going to do today as it contains most of the tools necessary for not doing them.

6.06-6.23am: Break. After all that work looking at the shed, I find I need a bit of a rest, so I’ll fire up the kettle again to consume one of the three types of coffee currently in my carefully-calibrated diet, accompanied by cigarettes number 2 and 3 in the recommended daily intake. I wrote a poem once about the delights of the second cigarette of the morning (the first one is merely utilitarian), but I’ll spare youse the embarrassment of having to write in to say how wonderful it is by not reproducing it here. (Look it up yourselves: it’s not like my published books are not for sale.)

6.24-6.52am: Real work. This can include reading the paper (not today’s paper, the remnants of The Irish Times from the previous Saturday which I have not yet edited), reading a bit out of The Bible in Irish if it is a Saturday (do not even go there – sometimes I do work work on a Saturday to get ahead of the game so that I can perform my Ibero-Hiberno siesta during the working week with no consequent guilt) or a drop of writing.

6.53-6.55am: Measurement of Adequate Sleep Procedure. This is a complicated process which involves a severe and thorough self-examination to ascertain whether or not I am sufficiently rested to begin to take on a day’s work work. As part of the procedure, I will undergo my first blood sugar level check of the day (providing the nurse has turned up) and stuff some of the many and varied legal drugs into me that my chronic and terminal condition requires. Depending on the results of the the Adequate Sleep Procedure (verified by two independent and fully-qualified GPs and not any of those student ones they are letting loose on the great unwashed due to the Kerfuffle), I will either begin the complicated process of deciding which type of shower to have (wet, Andytown or full Andytown), having said shower, picking out my wardrobe for the day (usually I use the walk-in one in the West Wing, but there are alternatives), getting dressed, smoking my last cigarette as a free man and then hoking out the work work laptop and firing it up; or else go back to bed until such time as the numbers from the measurement of adequate sleep are more acceptable.

Except today, of course, as there is an emergency with the wildlife that requires my urgent attention: two of the blackbirds are having a squabble over territorial rights, and I need to explain to them that neither of them actually owns said territory – it is all in the part-time wife’s name for tax purposes. I might have a healthy, open-air cigarette while I am out there.

Social Distancing

Day 18

Sunday, again, so a drop of religion seems in order. For you atheists reading, I promise not to talk about God. Religion and God: two separate subjects, but people tend to get them mixed up. The reason I promise not to talk about God is that I am a disciple … of the Ludwig Wittgenstein method of philosophy (youse can sign up for Ludso Baby’s Thoughts 101 if you successfully complete this course) which clearly states on the cover: whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Stick that in your Cornflakes and chew it! Because he was Austrian, he said it in German, though, but good old Encylopedia Brittanica has him down as a ‘British’ philosopher. What are the Brits like? Don’t answer that: we do not have enough space here on the internet for a full list of their character defaults. He spent a while in Connemara too: should we claim him as an ‘Austrian-born peripatetically Irish’ philosopher? But Irish philosopher seems to be a bit of an oxymoron, like British Intelligence.

Maybe a word or two on attire as well, which I have neglected of late. Not neglected to wear, query boy, (too early yet in the Kerfuffle to go full Monty) neglected to mention here. Yesterday, I was resplendent in a dust-pink (is that a thing?) polo shirt and black, Italian moleskin chinos. And there is no earthly reason why I should not adopt the same uniform today as nobody saw me yesterday. Nobody I am not intimately related to (by marriage, anyway), that is, and I bet if you asked them, they would not remember what I was wearing yesterday, apart from the nine hours I spent swanning about the estate in my tatty dressing gown. I just got bored with the jeans yesterday and decided to wear some work clothes for a laugh. The fascination with Teams video meetings seems to be wearing off, thankfully, and I had no work-related appearances on the small screen to prepare for yesterday. [Yesterday was Saturday, thank God! – Ed] For research purposes, wearing the work clothes had no discernible effect on the amount of actual work work I completed yesterday, which shall remain, for legal reasons, undefined.

So then, while Down and Conor and Clogher are still the only two dioceses in Ireland to ban funeral Masses (that number ‘two’ there will get the mathematically-gifted but religiously-ignorant readers commenting in their droves), our local medicine man is apparently going to attempt his first live-streamed Mass today. I might tune in for a laugh to see how it goes, as the same boy is so tech-savvy he probably has difficulty plugging in his kettle in the morning. He has no need to plug it in anyway, as he is constantly surrounded by a squabble of middle-aged, do-gooder women who cater to his every need. Maybe one of them will put a match to his coal-fired internet for him and point the webcam in the correct direction. But, if one of the hoard of women (and they are all women; there is some obscure stipulation in Canon Law that prevents men from holding this very important office in the Church hierarchy for some reason – plain sexual discrimination if you ask me) turns up inside the chapel during the Mass to ensure the tech side of things goes smoothly, she will be disobeying the strict orders of all the Irish Catholic Bishops that Mass should be a no audience participation event for the foreseeable future. I do not think the Bishes stated exactly how long we would burn in Hellfire if we disobeyed the ban on attending Mass, nor how satisfying what was previously a weekly requirement of our religion had suddenly transubstantiated itself into a sin, but whichever wee woman wins the competition to help the local priest today should make sure she wears the recommended spiritual protective equipment, and, obviously, wash her soul before and after entering the otherwise empty chapel. If she can find any holy water, that is.

That other bishop, the Pope, was on the interwobble the other day prophesying that we would be celebrating Holy Week in a very strange way this year. I wonder what he has planned? If he is on board with the Irish Hierarchy’s campaign to give up religion for Lent, maybe it will be some sort of Satanic ritual, or a Pride Parade [the difference being? – Ed.]. But there is no guarantee that Franky Boy has signed up to that campaign. And, in case you’re wondering, the reason he has not rapped the Irish Bishes over the knuckles about it is that, in so doing, he would be undermining his own authority. According to the Church rules, each Bish is a law onto himself (and they should also collectively be ‘a people set apart’, preferably somewhere far away from us), and can do whatever the Hell he wants within his own diocese. Were el Papa to restrict in any way these wide-ranging powers, he would, by logical extension as Bishop of Rome, be restricting his own authoritarian sway. And then where would we be? In the Amazon jungle, maybe, worshiping a fertility goddess, but let’s give him his Jew and wait until the end of Lent to see. On a point of order, Lent actually ends at midnight on Holy Thursday, so those of you who gave up chocolate because you believed the ‘old’ rules still applied in the Church of the Latin Rite (one of 24 individual churches within the artist formerly known as the Catholic Church) can, with no loss of plenary indulgence, tuck into your Easter eggs first thing on Good Friday morning. But wash your hands first.

There you go, more religion than you are probably used to on a Sunday and not a mention of God about the place. QED.