Daily Archives: October 17, 2011

The Joys of Already Knowing

Morning Blogsters:

Around 1969, I was in a freshman Geology course at the University of Texas, first week of classes. The instructor was a grad student teaching assistant who began the course with an overlay of how geologists determine the age of a particular layer of deposition.

Along about the third day a kid who’d been sitting next to me raised his hand. I’d noticed him squirming from the first day, and now he just had to get whatever was bothering him off his chest.

“I’ve been trying to understand what you’re saying, but it’s confusing. How can all this be true, all those depositions being so old when the world’s only (some specified low-range number of thousands) years old. It’s all been calculated when God created the earth.”

After the chaotic eruption of laughter from forty sophisticated freshmen who knew better subsided the instructor directed his response to the now-cringing questioner.

“You can’t have it both ways. This is a Geology course. Everything you hear in this room is based on the premise that the earth is ancient beyond imagination. That the world we see around us is the product of eons of tectonic activity. Of faulting, lifting, erosion, weathering followed by more of the same.

“I’m not going to try to convince you that what you’ve said is wrong. But I’ll tell you that if you can’t accept, for the sake of discussion, the possibility that the book in front of you describes reality, you’ll never get through this course.”

The kid joined me at a table in the Union coffee shop later. He was still upset and confused by the incident, the laughter. Turned out the kid truly couldn’t wrap his mind around the concepts being discussed. He KNEW it to be otherwise at such a fundamental level that he’d have had to relax all manner of other things he KNEW and held sacred to even consider it.

So he dropped the course and never let his mind out of the cage he’d built around it.

The experience that kid had in a geology classroom isn’t too different from what all of us encounter in life. It’s all a matter of where we place the boundaries of the cage.

Within a decade of the incident the geology world was turned upside down with emergence of tectonic plate theory, and much of what he’d have learned if he’d finished the course would have been out of date.

But Tectonic Plate Theory found similar boundaries among geologists’ minds during the difficult battle for acceptance. Old department heads wrestled against it in a war as bloody as a fundamentalist preacher would have fought against the concept of an earth more than a couple of thousand years old. They’d just placed the boundaries a bit further out than the kid and whatever school teacher told him the world was young. Those old geology profs KNEW there was no such animal as continental drift. No point in discussing evidence supporting it.

It’s a juggling act. In some pursuits the only doorway involves a body
of data we like to call ‘facts’. But frequently the doorway isn’t big
enough to allow a person through with his suitcase full of all his
life-accumulated facts he treasures. He has to pare them down to fit
into a briefcase, or a fanny-pack and leave the rest behind so’s to get
through the door and understand what he sees in the room he’s trying to
get into. If he tries tricking the system and dragging all the rest of
his facts through in a cotton-sack or some such thing he’ll be forever
tripping on them and stumbling.

A man’s got to be careful what he knows in this lifetime [maybe others,
also]. Traveling light can save a lot of trouble.

Old Jules

3.5* ’til Infinity   * = Billion years ago.

Wake-up Call – Coon in the Living Room

Sheeze.  I was lying in there meditating, preparing my spirit for the coming day when I heard a rustling in the other room.  I ignored it at first, figuring it was just one of the cats took advantage of the window screen that doesn’t latch convincingly.  But gradually I focused because somebody was having a party in there.

As I considered the awakening possibilities an opinion formed that it was probably Tabby as the most likely candidate, her being the youngest and most imaginative.  Now, completely focused I listened for more hints until the sound of something falling nudged my curiosity enough to pull me out from under the blanket.

When I came through the door I couldn’t see any cat, but the window screen was pulled open far enough to admit a large cat.  No sign of the offender still, though as I walked over for a closer look.

Then out from under the layers of books and other belongings a large coon face glared at me, hissed and threatened.  I didn’t like this a bit.  There was an escape route through the window, but I was near enough the way out Brother Coon mightn’t consider it the best option.  I didn’t want him coming further into this maze of hiding places.  This cabin isn’t big enough for me and a coon.

I stepped slightly away from the route through the window, eyes locked to his, baring my teeth, growling and snarling, him baring his, then stood stock still.  Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in the final scene of the Good Bad Ugly.  It seemed to last forever.

But while the tension never eased, like Tuco, I saw his eyes working toward that route outdoors.   My arms were spread to increase my threatening appearance and my hand was near an open bag of pinto beans.  I allowed my hand to creep toward it, then drew and fired a handful of pintos at the coon.

He didn’t have the strength of his convictions.  No Lee Van Cleef, old Brother Coon.  He was out that window faster than I can type it.  I probably should add, I’m having a bit of difficulty typing.  My hands are still shaking a bit.  Clint Eastwood, I ain’t. 


Ms Cholla, I feel obliged to update you, wasn’t there for headcount again last night.  This time I was more canny, looked right away over at the rooster compound and there she was, searching and poking around for a way in.  No problem for me.  If she wants to live with the damned roosters it suits me just fine.


Spent most of the day yesterday trying to get the Documents and Settings saved from this going-kerplunk comp into some sort of form to allow it all to be transferred to the Thrift Store comp, but no joy.   Kept getting error messages after a few hours at a time of the old machine considering the matter.

Just saying.

Old Jules

5:30 am – That coon’s been back on the porch three times since the post.  He’s standing on his hind legs trying to look in the window or playing with the edge of the door trying to get back in.  But thus far, he’s just a smidgen too canny to give me a shot at him through the window screen. 

He needs to figure out something else to do with his time if he wants to live until daybreak.