On “Another Middle”

Whether you meant to end up here or not, welcome to my blog! Here, you’ll find links, articles, videos, images, and more that I find interesting, inspirational, amusing, thought-provoking, and assumption-challenging, in addition to random tidbits that I feel like sharing with you all. Enjoy it!

Meaning

Wherever we are, we’re in the middle. We can see as far ahead of us as we’ve already left behind us. Think of it this way: When you were 5 years old, you could look 4 years back, and imagine about 4 years ahead. Similarly, when you’re 40, most people think in terms of their past 40 years, and project about 50 years into the future.

Another way of looking at this idea is that at every new horizon we reach, we can suddenly see newer and more spectacular horizons still to come. Say you worked your whole life toward the goal of becoming CEO of a company. As soon as you reach that goal, new dreams and goals suddenly pop into being—why not run an even bigger company, or start a second business, or run for public office, or something else entirely?

“Another Middle” therefore signifies that there’s always more to learn and discover, and there are always new ways to look at the world. Personally, I also take it to mean that there’s never any rush to get anywhere or accomplish anything in particular, since there’s nowhere to go—you’re already Here right Now, and there’s nowhere else to be. So have some fun with life!

Content

Since this is as much a personal blog as it is a “professional” one (whatever that means in this day and age), there are several disparate categories of posts here. I’ll explain each.

Perspectives

Although there are fewer of these than other types of posts here on Another Middle, I consider these the primary focus of this blog (I have a number of ideas on deck for Perspectives posts, but they’ll take time to compose and publish). These are the content pieces that I put the most thought and effort into, and where I delve the deepest into the world of ideas, and my own mind.

They are where I bare my soul, and put my thoughts, feelings, intuitions, ideas, connections, experiences, hypotheses, and observations out into the universe, to be shared, applauded, argued, agreed, debunked, debated, and dissected by anyone and everyone. Because I’m a masochist, I suppose.

But also because I feel strongly that the world needs more profound, reasoned, and expansive thoughts out there, to begin to balance the scales against the neverending tide of inanity, banality, triviality, stupidity, ignorance, negativity, and narrowness that constantly clouds Society’s discourse. Though, there is nothing wrong with fart jokes, either.

So I do hope that you, dear electronic passer-by, are able to take the time to read and react to some of what I have to say, and perhaps even share, comment, or connect with me.

Articles of the Moment

These posts began as emails to a small group of family and friends way back in my early college years, and which contained an assortment of articles, studies, and websites that piqued my interest. I’ve been a voracious consumer of internet content for over a decade now, from RSS feeds of EurekAlert, Science Daily, Science News, Futurity, Slashdot, Global Security, and Language Log, to news aggregator sites like Fark and Reddit, among many others. Especially before the Facebook Newsfeed became a ripe ground for sharing such things, emails with links and brief commentary seemed like the best way to spread information.

I have re-posted updated and edited versions of some of my old Articles of the Moment emails here (backdated appropriately), and will continue to fill in old posts over time. I also intend to make new “AotM” posts going forward as well, because there are even more fascinating and potentially life-changing ideas being created than ever before, and despite increased social-media-based news-sharing by everyone these days, most people only encounter a small fraction of them.

We’ll see though. There is a reason I called them Articles of the “Moment”—there’s no way I’d commit to a regular schedule of posting. Real Life keeps getting in the way.

Travel

There are no such posts yet, but I do plan on gradually posting bits and pieces of a travelogue I’ve been writing on and off for well over a decade now. These posts will chronicle my adventures during a Gap Year in 2000 and 2001, and will serve as teasers for a book I hope to publish.

Personal

Most “Personal” posts are from my college days, and are leftovers ported from a defunct Blogspot page that was somewhat active from 2004 to 2008. They are largely unchanged (merely minimally edited for grammar and flow), but I don’t necessarily have all of the same opinions or beliefs shared in them. It certainly is fascinating reading one’s own writings after many years of intervening growth.

Otherwise, any more recent Personal posts will likely deal with my day-to-day meanderings, travel anecdotes, work experiences, or my family or friends, among other general topics.

Recipes & Reviews

These are pretty self-explanatory, and are bits that every self-respecting “blogger” can’t avoid writing for very long. After all, food and opinions (and opinions about food) are second only to porn in driving web traffic around the world, right?

I don’t post many recipes unless I am supremely impressed with them, or they’re something I have been making myself for a while, since the web is already inundated with amazing food ideas merely a search away.

It’s a similar story with book or movie reviews—I’d sooner leave an Amazon review than post something here, unless the book or movie is exceptionally horrendous or amazing.

History

This forum for sharing the cacophony of ideas that pop into my head had its roots back in 1998, when I started a Geocities page that I had grandiosely and naively intended to become something like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Too bad I wasn’t remotely technically skilled, well-connected, or motivated enough, or I might have beaten Jimmy Wales to the punch by a few years. Ha! As if. (The only “interesting” thing I really did on that old Geocities site was compiling some comprehensive, alphabetized lists—all the named stars in the sky by constellation, all musical instruments in the world by category, and all the domesticated fruits of the world by climate. In retrospect, those were fairly obsessive and niche things to do, and probably representative of the single-minded, compulsive list-making that still dominates on Wikipedia and the Web in general today).

During the first half of college, I abandoned the Geocities page and bought my first domain, growing an actual personal website as I taught myself web design. There was a fair amount of interest-related content back then, including a large number of pictures and descriptions of my Gap Year travels, all hosted on the 20Mb of “free” webspace that Penn provided to students. Throughout the rest of my collegiate career I added a (since-deleted) Blogspot blog (which is where the Articles of the Moment originated), and gradually refined the design and coding of the site, eventually moving to my own rented webspace.

It was in 2011 when I began taking seriously suggestions from those around me to become a life coach. So I began to half-heartedly refocus my websites toward that goal, and away from purely personal content. But it still took another 3 years of life and work experiences to bring me to today, and to Alex Lorenc Life Coaching and AnotherMiddle.

Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, then you clearly need a hobby, but nevertheless thank you for your attention and readership, and stay tuned for much more to come in the future!

May your soul be at peace among the Stars

I felt the need to make some manner of post as a tribute in memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, one of the greatest scientific visionaries (e.g. geosynchronous orbit) and authors (over 100 works) of the 20th Century, given the sad news that he died today.

I feel the best way to give such a tribute is to simply post the transcript of his 90th birthday video message to the world, since I think he says it all best himself. But before we get to that, I did want to mention a few of his works that are my favorites, both just among his writings, and of all time.

Of course everyone knows of his and Kubrick’s 2001 (though I’m not a fan of the movie), but it’s actually one of his lesser known and more recent books that’s a favorite of mine: Light of Other Days (written with Stephen Baxter). This work in particular really speaks to me not only because of his forward-thinking examination of speculative science, but mostly because of his excellent exploration of how technology can affect us, as individuals and as a society. He also plays around with some fascinating historical ideas towards the end. Aside from Light of Other Days, I highly recommend that you immediately read the following two very famous short stories of his, especially if you’ve never heard of them before: The Nine Billion Names of God and The Star both pair Clarke’s hard science background with his creative and expansive interpretation of religion and of Meaning.

With no further ado, here is Sir Clarke’s final public speech:


[Transcript]:
Arthur C Clarke

“Hello! This is Arthur Clarke, speaking to you from my home in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

As I approach my 90th birthday, my friends are asking how it feels like, to have completed 90 orbits around the Sun.

Well, I actually don’t feel a day older than 89!

Of course, some things remind me that I have indeed qualified as a senior citizen. As Bob Hope once said: “You know you’re getting old, when the candles cost more than the cake!”

I’m now perfectly happy to step aside and watch how things evolve. But there’s also a sad side to living so long: most of my contemporaries and old friends have already departed. However, they have left behind many fond memories, for me to recall.

I now spend a good part of my day dreaming of times past, present and future. As I try to survive on 15 hours’ sleep a day, I have plenty of time to enjoy vivid dreams. Being completely wheel-chaired doesn’t stop my mind from roaming the universe – on the contrary!

In my time I’ve been very fortunate to see many of my dreams come true! Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, I never expected to see so much happen in the span of a few decades. We ‘space cadets’ of the British Interplanetary Society spent all our spare time discussing space travel – but we didn’t imagine that it lay in our own near future…

I still can’t quite believe that we’ve just marked the 50th anniversary of the Space Age! We’ve accomplished a great deal in that time, but the ‘Golden Age of Space’ is only just beginning. After half a century of government-sponsored efforts, we are now witnessing the emergence of commercial space flight.
Over the next 50 years, thousands of people will travel to Earth orbit – and then, to the Moon and beyond. Space travel – and space tourism – will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet.

Things are also changing rapidly in many other areas of science and technology. To give just one example, the world’s mobile phone coverage recently passed 50 per cent — or 3.3 billion subscriptions. This was achieved in just a little over a quarter century since the first cellular network was set up. The mobile phone has revolutionized human communications, and is turning humanity into an endlessly chattering global family!

What does this mean for us as a species?

Communication technologies are necessary, but not sufficient, for us humans to get along with each other. This is why we still have many disputes and conflicts in the world. Technology tools help us to gather and disseminate information, but we also need qualities like tolerance and compassion to achieve greater understanding between peoples and nations.

I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I hope we’ve learnt something from the most barbaric century in history – the 20th. I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalisation…

As I complete 90 orbits, I have no regrets and no more personal ambitions. But if I may be allowed just three wishes, they would be these.

Firstly, I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life. I have always believed that we are not alone in the universe. But we are still waiting for ETs to call us – or give us some kind of a sign. We have no way of guessing when this might happen – I hope sooner rather than later!

Secondly, I would like to see us kick our current addiction to oil, and adopt clean energy sources. For over a decade, I’ve been monitoring various new energy experiments, but they have yet to produce commercial scale results. Climate change has now added a new sense of urgency. Our civilisation depends on energy, but we can’t allow oil and coal to slowly bake our planet…

The third wish is one closer to home. I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for 50 years – and half that time, I’ve been a sad witness to the bitter conflict that divides my adopted country.
I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible. But I’m aware that peace cannot just be wished — it requires a great deal of hard work, courage and persistence.

I’m sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer – one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.

I find that another English writer — who, coincidentally, also spent most of his life in the East — has expressed it very well. So let me end with these words of Rudyard Kipling:

If I have given you delight
by aught that I have done.
Let me lie quiet in that night
which shall be yours anon;
And for the little, little span
the dead are borne in mind,
seek not to question other than,
the books I leave behind.

This is Arthur Clarke, saying Thank You and Goodbye from Colombo!”

~December 5, 2007

The New Polytheism

In this day and age when so many Things can so easily be Capitalized—by which I mean they can be given lives of their own, anthropomorphized and imbued with meaning beyond their dictionary definition—then those very Things become forces unto themselves, to which we surrender our own Thought, Will, and Responsibility…Those Things become gods. Of course I’m talking about the good old fashioned type of gods, as in pre-Israelite monotheism, or like the gods of the Greeks, Babylonians, or Ugarites. Or maybe even like the ancient Chinese pantheon, or Japanese kami, etc.

Browse through any magazine from the shelves in Barnes & Noble, flip through network news, go to a club, or even listen to our politicians, and you’ll soon encounter a plethora of Powers that seem to saturate our society’s daily existence. Sexual Expression flirts with younger and younger generations of children, all the while courting Media and Entertainment at the same time (the slut). Freedom of Speech (Freedom‘s foul-mouthed but truthful grandchild) meanwhile continues his schizophrenic rampage, sometimes slapping Sexual Expression’s wrist and belting out prayers in schools, and sometimes yelling “Fuck” in playgrounds and posting bomb-making instructions on his blog. Privacy mostly keeps to himself, but the big bully Political Correctness, along with pals Bureaucracy and ever-rigid Law, beat the crap out of Personal Responsibility while (ironically) shouting verbal abuse at the sickly Freedom, and of course Sloth and Entitlement cheer from the sidelines. Money is friends with everybody, but his extravagant lifestyle has left him feeling a bit insubstantial, and Greed has taken to dressing up like Capitalism, (or maybe it’s vice versa)—it’s hard to tell since Idealism and Realism are always blocking our view with their squabbles. And of course War is actually stronger, though also leaner, than ever before, even after working hard for the past 10,000 years straight (if not longer).

None of this is “bad,” per se—it’s simply how things are—but it would help us all a lot if we start to recognize these Powers, these gods for what they are. By acting as though these eternal forces play no part in our lives, we give them free reign to wreak havoc on us, all the while letting our own internal powers grow soft. If we but light a stick of incense to Reason and Awareness and take greater care in choosing which powers we pray to, we might actually benefit from this arrangement, as the Greeks and then Romans did when their consciousness of such gods allowed them to reach great heights of philosophical and scientific understanding.

By accepting this new pantheon as part of our society, we can achieve even greater heights than any previous civilization has, while simultaneously growing to know ourselves better than ever too.


Post Script:

This admittedly unstudied and elementary idea sprung into my head as I read a text for one of my classes: Michael Cook’s A Brief History of the Human Race, which gives an insightful though (necessarily) superficial look at all of human history.