Saturday, February 28, 2009

What are the odds? We're talking miracles here

I've had a few more moments of the 'universe conspiring' lately, and found myself asking, what are the odds? On my way to work I read the following story about a man who beat the odds of cancer, and reflects on the very miracle of being brought into this world: "Mathematically, our death is a simple inevitability, whereas our life hinges on an almost infinite sequence of perfect accidents. The universe was pregnant with us when it was born."

From Forrest Church's essay: "Chance of a Lifetime"

"Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about life’s odds. Four months ago I was diagnosed with a particularly savage form of esophageal cancer. Odds were, my doctor told me, I had only months to live. Entering all my variables into the relevant actuarial tables, the odds were 20 to 1 against me.

...and then I started beating the odds. Against all expectations, the cancer had not metastasized. A talented surgeon removed my esophagus, replacing it, conveniently, with my stomach. The post-op pathology brought us more good news. The margins were clear, the lymph nodes negative, and the tumor had barely penetrated the esophageal wall. New odds now: 3 to 1 that I am cured.

“What did I do to deserve this?” we ask when things turn against us, forgetting that we did nothing to deserve being placed in the way of trouble and joy in the first place. The odds against each one of us being here are so mind-staggering that they cannot be computed.

We’re talking miracles here. Not an unlikely miracle, like God parting the Red Sea for Moses to escape the Egyptians, but the miracle of water itself, in which living organisms can incubate, and enough warmth and light from the sun to establish conditions for life to be nurtured and develop here on Earth.

Consider the odds more intimately. Your parents had to couple at precisely the right moment for the one possible sperm to fertilize the one possible egg that would result in your conception. Right then, the odds were still a million to one against your being the answer to the question your biological parents were consciously or unconsciously posing. And that’s just the beginning. The same happenstance must repeat itself throughout the generations. From the turn of the 12th century, we each have, mathematically speaking, 1 million direct ancestors.


Not only did all our human ancestors survive puberty, but their pre­human ancestors did the same. Then we have to go back further to our premammalian ancestors; and from there to the ur-paramecium; and beyond that to the pinball of planets and stars, playing out their agon into diurnal courses, spinning back through time to the big bang itself.

Mathematically, our death is a simple inevitability, whereas our life hinges on an almost infinite sequence of perfect accidents. The universe was pregnant with us when it was born.

If you find yourself out of the race, so far behind the pack that you can hardly see its dust—if the odds weigh against you, the odds against happiness returning to fill your days with joy, the seemingly overwhelming odds that you will never recover from whatever is beating you down—take a moment to ponder life’s cosmic odds and how you’ve already beaten them."

~Forrest Church, "Chance of a Lifetime"

Friday, February 20, 2009

Katrina doc 'Trouble the Water' wades into Oscars

I had the opportunity to interview the filmmakers behind "Trouble the Water" for a short piece on, and with it, the chance to watch the film. It's great, if you can find a screening in your area, go!

"This needs to be worldwide. 'Cause all the footage I've seen on TV, nobody got what I got."

With Kimberly Roberts' statement, the Oscar-nominated "Trouble the Water" invites us into a shaky cinema verite version of her experience in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, providing an intimate look at the aftermath that we might have missed from national news coverage.


"Strong characters are the strength of any good story," Lessin says. And the best surprise of their journey was meeting Kimberly and Scott Roberts, whose personal transformations throughout the film are the heart of the story and help make sense of the chaos that surrounded Katrina.

Read the whole story here - with a video clip from the film.

(Photo: Kimberly and Scott Roberts, courtesy Zeitgeist Films)

Monday, February 16, 2009

What I Have Learned So Far -- Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just,
the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of --- indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

~ Mary Oliver

Friday, February 13, 2009

Saving lives and tax dollars

Even if caring for the poor, the homeless comes down to a numbers game, check out the numbers here:

"So how does the cost of housing and services compare to the cost of endlessly churning 50 people through jails, courtrooms and emergency rooms? ...

... however you calculate it, one thing is clear: For roughly the same investment of county tax dollars, the bulk of the 50 are in recovery rather than a permanent state of decline here in the homeless capital of the United States. And there could well be long-term savings."

~ Steve Lopez "Smart-spending skid row program saves lives"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Downtown after the rain

Why I love it when it rains in L.A.

On a coffee break to get out of the building. Not bad for a camera phone.