Another accident

Posted on March 15th, 2009 by george.
Categories: death, life, prayer.

Kayaking today was a bust.  We woke up early to have brekkie before the sun rose (this is the month of fasting for Baha’is), but then we went back to sleep.  By the time Lorenia and I got out of bed at 11am to find her sister Marianna already awake, the prospect of driving to Tampa to spend $225 for a half day at Busch Gardens had lost its appeal.  We settled on kayaking, in spite of Lorenia’s sunburn and allergy to mosquitoes (kudos to her bravery in that regard).  Rather than drive an hour to Orlando for kayaking in Wekiva Springs, we called a local place and decided to paddle through the mangrove swamp.  Unfortunately, upon arrival the owner informed us that he had rented his seven kayaks to a large group before we could get there.  Unfazed, we regrouped at Starbucks (for Marianna, obviously, it is the Fast) and revised our plan of attack.  We settled on putt-putt golf.

On the way to Starbucks we drove through the intersection where, three and a half years ago, I witnessed a fatal motorcycle accident.  I thought about it as we passed, as I do every time I drive through that intersection, but chose not to voice the memory to my passengers.  After Starbucks we got back in the car to drive about five blocks north to the miniature golf course.  Spring Break traffic was poking along at about 35mph, moving in pulses through the redlights.  We passed a motorcyclist tailgating an economy car in the left lane.  He was wearing a black helmet, but no shirt.

“I’m glad he’s wearing a helmet, but if he gets into an accident, his chest, arms, shoulders and all the skin on his torso are gone,” I said aloud.  I was thinking of a skidding accident, though, not a collision.

At that moment, someone about six cars ahead in his lane slowed to make a left turn.  I could see the traffic braking in his lane.  My lane was clear, but his was quickly coming to a complete stop.  I watched him in my rearview mirror, trying to inform him telepathically.  I lost sight of him behind the traffic in his lane.  Suddenly I heard his engine rev to the redline.  Was he being impatient?  A split second later, a sickening, crunching thud.  No tire screech.  Just 35 to zero in an instant.

I lifted my foot from the accelerator, unsure of what to do.  I remember thinking, “If I were I doctor, I would be required by law to stop.”  As distance grew between us and the accident, I saw the driver of the economy car get out and walk to the rear of his car to see what the heck had just transpired.  I considered calling 911, but most times I phone in accidents they tell me I’m the fifth caller.  Within a few seconds we made our turn into “Fantasy Adventure Golf.”  I sat in the car for a few minutes while Lorenia patiently talked me through it.

Looking back, it’s quite possible that his engine revved by accident as he panicked when reaching for the brake and hit the throttle instead.  At the time, however, it sure seemed as though he was using it to voice his impatience.  And it certainly isn’t intelligent to follow a car with only five feet between you and the bumper.  As Lorenia pointed out, physics always wins.

Still, he was wearing a helmet.  Shirt or no, I don’t wish accident or injury on anyone.  We all make our own choices when faced with this reality.  Were we callous to keep going?  Not really.  The world cannot afford to stop for every human death.  That is, assuming he died, which is a very good possibility.  We humans die at a rate of more than one per second.  We’re born even faster.  Life, for better or worse, always moves on.  Your circle of influence affects the size of the ripple through the fabric of society that your absence leaves, but in the scheme of the universe, we don’t register.  Thankfully for my sanity, I believe in an omnipotent and benevolent Creator, or else this line of reasoning might drive me to suicide.  I said two prayers for him:  a healing prayer in case he survived and is in a hospital as I type, and a prayer for the departed in case his soul has moved on to the next world.

You might find it interesting to go back and read my account of the last time I witnessed a motorcycle accident in Cocoa Beach, contrasting it with this one, given the knowledge that when I wrote the 2005 entry I was not a Baha’i and could not bring myself to believe in God.  I figure now that if I’ve seen two of these wrecks in five years, it must happen all the time.  Just like people dying.  And life always goes on, just like it did for us.

We played eighteen holes.

6 comments.

Oprah interviews Dwight

Posted on March 10th, 2009 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, life, prayer, society, video.

I am getting chills…chills…listening to Oprah’s interview of Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight Schrute on the Office.  To hear Oprah, vanguard of American opinion, the billionaire African American woman with a direct line into living rooms across the country, mention the Baha’i House of Worship in Chicago in reverent tones sent a shiver down my spine.  Do yourself a favor and tune in to this funny, enlightening, and uplifting interview about acting, Chicago, the Baha’i Faith, art as prayer, service to humanity as our highest calling, and the meaning of soul pancake.

4 comments.

Happy Birthday!

Posted on October 1st, 2008 by george.
Categories: fun, future, life, photography, prayer, serendipity, space, technology.

First, to my father. Without him, there are countless reasons I wouldn’t be here.

Fish tacos!

Second, to NASA. It’s incredible to me that they share the same birthday. When I called Dad to wish him well today, he said it was meant to be that he have a son who would one day work for such a storied organization.

Me and Aki

So here’s to both of you! We celebrated in fine style this week, with the crew of STS-124 returning to KSC to visit the employees on Monday. I had the distinct privilege of meeting and speaking with Aki Hoshide, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan and Ken Ham. During the question and answer session I asked about their views on the future of space exploration, since Space X successfully launched the Falcon rocket into orbit on their fourth attempt just this Sunday, making it history’s first private orbital spacecraft.

With Ken and Ron

Ron gave a brilliant answer, one which I didn’t forsee and which settles the false dichotomy between public and private space. Many people aren’t aware how much NASA supports private space exploration, even putting their money where their mouth is and seed-funding several startups, not to mention making arrangements for future private-party resupply missions to the International Space Station. Ron said it’s time for NASA to leave LEO (Low Earth Orbit) to the startups, and venture outward into the solar system. The ISS is an incredible outpost, and we should operate it as intended, as an international microgravity science laboratory, but it should be resupplied with cargo and crew by private companies. NASA should throw its weight behind efforts where it has historically excelled, namely exploration. It makes sense to field more robotic missions to planets and NEOs (Near Earth Objects) and to embark on human exploration and settlement of the Moon and Mars. It’s a beautiful symbiosis. Ron emphasized that NASA and other government space programs are the only ones capable of pursuing the goals that are “seventy years out,” meaning the missions for which there is no immediately discernible financial return, but which intangibly benefit us all. LEO is ripe for commercial expansion. But Elon Musk doesn’t have the $40 billion it’s going to take to put a human on Mars.  Yet.

With Mike Fossum

Today, on the golden anniversary of NASA beginning operations, the employees of the Kennedy Space Center celebrated by walking, running and rollerblading 1-mile, 5K and 10K courses on the three-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. I take special pride in being the person who started the rollerblading tradition (much to the chagrin of the competitive runners) four years ago. Each year we have a greater number of dorks in helmets out on the slab. It’s fantastic fun. This year marks the first time I’ve been beaten to the finish line!

Twin STAs

The highlight for me, though, is after the race. It’s not the free catered food and sports drinks, the camaraderie and the swag, all of which are good. It’s the chance to see what goes on nearly every day at the SLF, up close and personal. Astronaut pilots and commanders are training all the time in the STAs (Shuttle Training Aircraft), modified Gulfstreams with sophisticated flight controls and avionics to make them fall out of the sky just like space shuttles.

Exuding with the STAs

Today there were two STAs on the tarmac, and anyone who was brave enough to ask got a guided tour. There’s nothing in the world like sitting in the pilot seat of a split-down-the-middle frankenstein machine, half shuttle, half executive jet, looking through the futuristic transparent HUD (Head Up Display) as the astronauts arrive in their T-38 supersonic jets to train in the very seat in which you sit. We got the royal treatment, too, staying onboard while the engines spooled up and meeting the former astronauts and maintenance officers for the SR-71 and U-2 who teach the younger flyboys and flygirls how to handle the magnificent birds. I learned more in one evening about the STA than I have in all my years as an aerospace engineer. These planes have the longest service history of any Gulfstream (a company also celebrating its 50th) aircraft ever produced.  The engines are different, as are the thrust reversers, the 30-degree-positive flaps, and countless other systems that give these planes their jekyll-and-hyde personality.

Boarding the STA

As I skated back to the car, the sky turned various brilliant shades of pink and orange as more astronauts arrived in their jets.  I bid the crew farewell and said a silent prayer of thanks for the privilege I enjoy, working every day at the greatest spaceport on Earth, for an organization responsible for some of the crowning achievements of our era and that has contributed so much to humankind.

In the student seat of the STA

6 comments.

khamsin

Posted on February 28th, 2008 by george.
Categories: epiphany, friends, future, history, life, poetry, prayer.

a gift from within the stone fortress
sent on feathered wings
graced with golden dust

a release
in the form
of an embrace

an ambassador
with a gossamer key
to the shackles of my own design

a prayer for peace
sent back with the dove
to the point round which all angels

fly

3 comments.

Las nubes

Posted on February 12th, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, enlightenment, epiphany, future, life, love, numbers, photography, poetry, prayer, serendipity, space, synthesis, travel.

Helix
low clouds drift over
her plunging arcs
helices adorn
her pure crystalline slopes
under the watchful eye
of the sliver of a crescent moon
Twin contrails
twin contrails cut across the sky
as they carve their way
through the forest
deeper into the heart
of the valley below
Through the forest
the great granite monolith
reigns regal over the valley
as the traveler departs the shores
of the great salt lake
both their heads in the clouds
Great salt lake
the hawk prays on detachment
in solitude above the clouds
that at the peak of the mountain
he should find his other wing
attached to an angel
Signs point to yes
he cannot cast his eyes
upon anything but signs
he is enveloped in assurance
his threading path is lit
by luminous rays
do you love me from the smallest ant
to the littlest loud?
su corazón pregunta
you mean cloud, he says
si, nube, she replies
James and Caytlin
do you like strawberries?
asks the little girl
after the traveler is diverted
from his prayers
I love strawberries, he responds
two women engaged in conversation
not a word of English between them
halt their cascade of Spanish to repeat
a single word foretold:
cloud
eleven arrives
to carry the weary traveler home
his head in the radio
as he reaches
mile marker 43
out of the corner of his eye
flow tears of certitude
leaving tracks on his cheeks
and crystals on the dry lakebed
of his heart
soft whimpers escape his lips
and with them his doubt
as the tortoise shell of his heart melts
and the delicate blossom of love
unfolds
everything in the universe
every slice of time and space
every cause and effect
has led to this moment
numbers themselves were created
to add up to this love
exit 52 leads him home
he walks out to check the mail
but on the way to the box
stoops to pick up
an empty cup
standing up his eyes rise
and fix their gaze on a star
the brightest setareh in the sky
shining in brilliant splendor
as the clouds march by
he looks to his hand
as his disbelief evaporates
and in its stead he finds
16 ounces of truth
straight from the mountain top
Mountain top

5 comments.

Nouveaux yeux

Posted on September 26th, 2007 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, friends, future, life, prayer, synthesis.

I'll be back

At the opthamologist today, my pupils were dilated as part of the exam. Even with the complimentary Terminator shades, the late afternoon sun seemed as though it had discovered a new fusile element and was churning out radiation at a hundred fold its normal pace. I was amazed to discover how reliant I am upon my vision, from navigating the road to choosing ripe bananas. It’s another world when you can’t see the ingredient list at the grocery store or can’t bear the sight of oncoming headlights.

Becoming a Baha’i is a similar experience, except that the Sun is always shining brighter, and is only limited by the growth of your vision, not its infinite and inexhaustible light. Just the other day I mailed one of my two prayer books to New Zealand, in support of a Baha’i art project that seeks to change the way we view spirituality in art. It was an exercise in detachment, as life itself seems to be, to part with something associated with fond memories. This was the book I received upon joining my Brevard County community, the book from which I memorized the Tablet of Ahmad.

But the paper and glue themselves matter little; just as what’s more important than the words of a prayer is the spirit in which it is uttered. I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that today, within a week of giving up something that seemed so precious, I should receive what I can only characterize as a divine confirmation. When I opened my mail this evening, I discovered a crimson tome with gilt letters reading, “Prières Bahá’íes.” It took but a moment to discern that this was a gift from my dear friend Atoosa on my first rebirthday, the one-year anniversary of my declaration.

How amazing to read a prayer you know by heart in another tongue. I cannot fathom the doors this will unlock, the bonds of illumination it will forge, to simultaneously explore my love for the French language and my adoration of Baha’u’llah.

Thank you, Atoosa joon.

Eye

11 comments.

Serendipity

Posted on September 17th, 2007 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, food, friends, fun, future, history, life, love, music, prayer, synthesis, travel.

Fere, Farah and Sarah

If there’s one thing I’m learning about writing it’s that when inspiration strikes, you must strike back, while the iron is hot. Some of you are probably wondering after the whereabouts of that potentially controversial essay I planned to write on Thursday, the day Lazi got into a car accident that left her and her friend upside down, hanging from their seatbelts. Don’t worry, she’s ok. But you see how easy it is to get distracted? Now it’s three a.m. after a life-changing weekend and my head is full of five pages that I can’t afford to sacrifice sleep to commit to words. God forgive me, but I feel I must resort to the dreaded bullet list. Behold: as many highlights from the weekend as I can remember. Rest assured there are hundreds more my poor brain is already forgetting as the cup overfloweth.

• Working extra hours in advance to leave work early Friday for Savannah to attend Louis and Shezel’s wedding
• Picking up Sarofsky and Justin in JAX
• Seeing happiness in the eyes of the four parents of the bride and groom
• Meeting Louis’s and his father Michael’s brothers
• Meeting Cara and Rob from Orlando and learning about life at Guantanamo and the difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer
• Bonding with Justin
• Bachelor party laser tag
• Gourmet brekkie at the posh hotel downtown, included with the room
• Getting half price on said posh hotel
• Meeting Brittany, the vibrant soul with light in her eyes, a lilt in her voice, spring in her step, and heart in her service, a senior in interior design and our cashier at the sandwich shop
• Hearing the words “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” sung by a local artist at an outdoor cafe the moment we rounded the corner to the sandwich shop
• Making it to the wedding in advance to help set up
• Enjoying the honor of reading 1 Corinthians chapter 13 during the ceremony from the microphone between the bride and groom, their silhouettes framing the faces of an audience brimming with love and support for the couple
• Reuniting with members of my local Brevard County family on the lawn
• Meeting Brenda and Nancy, kindred spirits, by the hors d’oeuvres as the sun went down on a beautiful day
• Sharing tough but enlightening conversations with Ladan and Ramzi and family
• Witnessing the impossibly beautiful blending of the cultures of two different families manifest itself on the dance floor
• Busting several moves on said dance floor before the rug-cutting was cut short
• Listening to Darrell dedicate his poem to his little brother
• Eating wedding cake in honor of Mom (it’s her favorite dessert)
• Throwing Persian “rice” at Louis and Shezel on their way to the limo
• Finishing off the last of the wedding cake
• The Saturday night misadventures of $20 covers at bowling alleys, full car sing-alongs, and visiting the beach at Tybee Island for the first time at 2am, spending hours splashing in the ocean, looking at the stars and talking about the universe
• Waking up late Sunday to bid farewell to so many wonderful new friends (including the third interior designer!) like Navid, Adeeb (my new cousin), Shawn, Mona, Nissa, Cheryl, Sarah, Jalil and Sina
• Eating leftover wedding cake before lunch
• Enjoying lunch on the sidewalk in downtown Savannah with Sarofsky, Farah, Fere and Justin
• Justin’s eagle eye spotting Brittany walking straight toward us from across the street
• Marvelling at the serendipity of meeting a complete stranger twice in two days in a major city, embracing the second time and realizing you are old friends
• Hitting the road like Juan Valdez in order to make it to St. Augustine by 7pm for the once-a-year 1905 Day at my favorite restaurant in Florida: The Columbia
• Arriving at 6:35
• Being informed that no more reservations are being taken
• Sweet-talking the hostess and getting a table for 8:45
• Stepping outside to inform the group that we need to wait two hours and can enjoy the city, the second wonderful historic Southern town to introduce Justin to in the span of two days
• Being caught by the manager just before we set out and being taken to a table right away
• Enjoying the best gourmet Spanish food this side of Spain and paying 1905 prices (Cokes were ten cents, soups fifty cents, salad a dollar, entrees $2.05)
• Paying the tab without blinking and tipping the waiter double the bill
• Enjoying the ride home with my sisters Farah and Fere accompanied by good music
• Thinking the night was over only to be introduced to five religious refugees from Iran, family of local Baha’is who arrived in the United States 10 days ago
• Welcoming them to our community, learning about their lives and their journey, sharing stories and gaining amazing insights about prayer and destiny
• Being blessed with tangible evidence of the undeniable unity of all humans in the form of five brilliant souls
• Mentioning the five sisters and noticing the five-pointed star on Mehrvash’s necklace
• Listening to Siroos translate from Persian to English, and noticing that Kazim used the word “rouhani” several times in Persian
• From what I can tell, rouhani means “spiritual”
• Rouhani is Shezel’s maiden name, bestowed upon her family in the early history of the Baha’i Faith
• Kazim had never heard of the Rouhanis until tonight
• Thanking God for the limitless divine outpourings accrued over what must be recorded as three of the most intense days of my life, three days which are a direct result of the spiritual journeys taken last weekend in Texas
• Witnessing firsthand the soul-stirring, foundation-shaking, happiness-inducing, resolve-solidifying, purpose-endowing power of the Tablet of Ahmad, the Fire Tablet, and the Tablet of Visitation of Abdu’l-Baha

9 comments.

Pray for Denise

Posted on August 29th, 2007 by george.
Categories: friends, health, prayer.

Some of you may not know my friend and travel buddy Denise, and others still may not know that she is one of the few female swoopers in the world. What is swooping? Call it “extreme skydiving.” As if the sport weren’t already extreme enough. But Dee is a competitor and an adventurer, and while she may bring sunshine to our lives she’s also tough as nails. Which is why I didn’t hear about her recent skydiving accident until today. I had to phone her to find out. She’s alive, doing ok, but her legs are banged up pretty bad and needless to say she’s out of the competition for this week. If there were one thing I could ask for right now, it would be for your prayers. Thank you my friends.

7 comments.