You are looking at posts in the category serendipity.
This morning my hands were so full that I left In Rainbows on the kitchen counter by accident. I had to choose a CD on the commute, so I picked one from my case that’s been neglected for weeks: The Shepherd’s Dog, by Iron & Wine. At work I got a tweet from Sholeh. She hadn’t tweeted in over a month. It read, “One year since I came back from Haifa: http://sholeh.calmstorm.net.” I hadn’t been to her blog in months. I read her prose and poetry and realized I hadn’t written in just as long. I was inspired, so I wrote this:
deep in diodes
the world at a stop
my lifeblood pulsed
the same shade
as the light
cast off by electrons
funneling down the rabbit hole
at the moment
providence beamed upon my crown
of the essence of red
now drinking daily
from the only watering hole
the ripples calm
to reveal a change in stripe
is this some new animal
some tender new shoot
or the same heart
sheathed in endless years?
what use is fluttering
in a cage designed
not to confine
wings newly wed
for now they flutter
for ultimate reunion awaits
more powerful than any
in this life
At the exact moment I finished writing, I got a text from Lorenia reading, “New blog post!” I clicked through the link to fresita.org on Sholeh’s blog, read all about psycho kitty (qu’est-ce que c’est?), and promptly posted a comment. The second it posted, I saw that Sholeh had commented at the exact same time, down to the minute.
Ok. So great coincidence, right? Just wait, the braid draws tighter. I was lost in thought on the drive home, Sam Beam
cooing my worries to sleep, when I realized I had just heard The Lovesong of the Buzzard, the song whose meter inspired my last good poem, Alhambra, written about Lorenia. Down the road, I glanced up at the glowing, green traffic light passing overhead, right at the moment Sam sang, “Like stubborn boys with big green eyes.” In fact, I saw it precisely as he said, “green.” It struck me that in the poem I’d just written, I referred to sitting at a red light, staring at the LEDs. Now the light was green, a symbol of hope, and I was moving forward. The song ended, and the very next track was “Boy With a Coin,” which Sholeh had first clued me in to on 07-11-07, while she was in Haifa, the place she wrote about today. Coincidentally, we had one opportunity to launch of STS-127 this week, but a faulty GUCP valve scrubbed it until 07-11-09, exactly two years later. Furthermore, on the poem Alhambra, Sholeh’s comment was, “makes me think of sunsets, for some reason. lovely.” The poem she wrote that inspired me today? It’s entitled, “sunsets always make me miss everyone.”
In searching for where she mentioned that song, I entered “coin” on sliding thoughts and came up with exactly two entries…both about coincidences. In searching on LJ for the same, I found a fitting end to this post.
into my heart’s treasury
i slipped a coin
that time cannot take
nor a thief purloin, –
oh better than the minting
of a gold-crowned king
is the safe-kept memory
of a lovely thing.
So I’m sailing down the highway on the way into work this morning, spacing out to Moon Safari, when I notice a white Ford SUV on the other side of the highway slowing down. As soon as it pulls into the median I know I’ve been had. I gulp. There’s a new zero-tolerance policy around these parts, and the police force has been instructed to crack down on speeding. The unmarked cruiser makes a u-turn and starts to accelerate toward me, but I’ve been coasting since the moment I spotted it. I slowly apply the brakes and pull over onto the grassy shoulder before the SUV even catches up. The cop pulls in behind me and opens the door, steps out and starts walking toward my car. Then, strangely, the officer does an about-face and leans into the cruiser over the driver’s seat. Only then do the blue lights, hidden in the cab of the unmarked vehicle, flick on. I chuckle.
I roll down the window, turn off the car and get my license and proof of insurance ready. I hold them up as the cop approaches. I’m surprised when a female voice intones, “You’re spoiling me today. Usually I have to chase people down. Thanks for pulling over so quickly.” I smile and hand her my documents. “Registration?” she asks. I find it in the glove box and hand it over.
“Do you know why I stopped you?”
“Well, I knew something was wrong when I saw you pull into the median.”
“Do you know what the speed limit is here?”
“I think it’s forty-five,” I say sheepishly.
“Well, you were doing sixty,” she says in a motherly tone.
“I’m sorry,” I reply.
“Do you have any outstanding tickets on your license?”
“Not that I’m aware of. The last time I got a ticket was in 2008. January 1st, in fact.”
“Ok, I’m going to go run your license. For my safety and yours, please stay in your car.”
I watch as she walks back to the cruiser. I consciously avoid sipping from my tea, so as not to appear too nonchalant. It’s not long before she comes back and puts the license in my hand.
“I can’t do it,” she says. “You’re just too polite, too cooperative. I can’t give you a citation.”
Well I’ll be.
I smile, say thank you, and shake her hand. I roll up the window and do my best to coax Kashmir back onto the highway without too much herky-jerky (the intake hose is cracked and as a result the engine bucks and stutters at low rpm). I don’t want to get pulled over a second time for faulty equipment. My satisfied smile fades, though, as I realize the things I’ve said about police officers in the past. Perhaps I was too quick to judge. I probably shouldn’t generalize. Maybe this is what happens when you’re pulled over by a cop of the opposite gender. Perhaps being observant, polite and cooperative actually pays off. Or maybe it was just my lucky day.
At any rate, today I have nothing but good things to say about the police. And that’s refreshing.
First, to my father. Without him, there are countless reasons I wouldn’t be here.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It would take a novel to tell the tale of our recent trip south of the equator. I could wax poetic about the natural beauty of Peru and Bolivia, and indeed, Lake Titicaca is everything the Animaniacs crack it up to be, and Machu Picchu is most deserving of its spot among the New Seven Wonders of the World. What keeps emerging as I tell the stories to friends, however, is an aspect of that same modern world that we as Baha’is are working to eradicate: extremes of wealth and poverty.
Coming home to my first Radiohead concert, after waiting more than a decade to see one of my all-time favorite bands live, only threw the contrast between the United States and Peru and Bolivia into starker relief. While the experience was underwhelming (most likely due to the poor sound quality at Ford Ampitheater in Tampa, the lazy crowd and the mellow setlist), it was still worthwhile. There’s no comparing it to Peru, but I couldn’t get Radiohead’s songs out of my head for days. Indeed I still can’t. In Rainbows defies my knack for hyperbole. I think Vince, who joined us at the concert, said it best.
IN RAINBOWS – choose 1:
a) Great Radiohead Album, or
b) Greatest Radiohead Album
Leave it to a band who defines my generation to say what I wanted to say about South America (and indeed all countries not as privileged as the G8) with a powerful music video, released while we were in Peru.
Arthur C. Clarke, one of my most exalted heroes, has passed to the next world. There is no way I could ever pay proper respect to his spirit or legacy, so I’ll let him speak for himself.
Rest in peace, Mr. Clarke, immersed in everlasting joy and assured in your new, infinite knowledge that all your wishes are true, and will come true for us.
You like coincidences? Check out my most recent flickr photo, which I posted before leaving for Mexico and have left up for nearly a week. I have read 2001: A Space Odyssey, and 2010: Odyssey Two, but until today I did not know that the second sequel was entitled 2061: Odyssey Three. Third book’s the chardm, as they say.
P.S. This is my third visit to Mexico.
I am not making this up.
When you finish reading this, I want you to tell me, honestly, if these sorts of things ever happen to you. I want you to tell me if you think I’m reading into this, or conjuring something out of thin air. If you think it means something, tell me what it means. If you have a salient point to share or harbor some related knowledge or you discern something I’m missing, tell me. Even if you don’t normally comment. I need help deciphering these recent experiences.
I’m going to try to weave together a story for you that includes all the important threads, but considering that every one connects to some other event, it’s impossible for me to capture the totality of meaning in one short essay. I hope it’s still cohesive.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Most of you know my friend Sholeh. In fact, I’d be surprised if you didn’t, considering the fact that, at 83, we share the most friends in common of anyone I know. Sholeh has been serving at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa for over a year now, on an 18-month term. She recently moved to a new apartment there, and shares this flat with Maryam and Laily. Maryam grew up in the Baha’i community in Orlando with many of my friends here in central Florida. In fact, I have heard nothing but glowing reports about her from Fere, Shezel, Sarah, and many others. Maryam has been serving in Haifa for over a year, and will be there for at least 16 more months. She has also spent time in Texas, so not only does she know most of my Florida friends, but she knows the Kouroshes and my Texas peeps, and everyone that I know in Haifa. We may not have as many friends in common as Sholeh and I, but I’ve been eager to meet this girl for as long as I’ve known about her. Imagine my excitement when I learned she was in the United States for two weeks and was passing through Florida.
Sarah sent out an invite on Monday, January 7th, inviting us to Maryam’s Dad’s house for a get together that Friday so we could “have dance” and enjoy “poisonous snaks.” On Thursday, January 10th, I was driving back from the Hot Hot Heat concert in Orlando with Uncle Billy. We got out earlier than usual, and after only a few minutes in the car he remarked,
“Oh look, 11:11pm.”
“That’s funny,” I said, “Why would you point that out?”
“Oh, no reason, just that my family would freak out when they saw something like that. It doesn’t mean anything to me, though.”
For the record, before I go any further, up to this point 11:11 has had no special meaning to me, and I harbor no preconceived notions about its significance. Also for the record, Bill is an atheist, has zero superstitions, is skeptical of coincidences and omens, and has never pointed out anything remotely like that to me before.
Within 24 hours, though, on Friday, January 11th, I found myself standing at the door to Maryam’s father’s house, about to meet her for the first time. There, in big, bold brass numbers was his address on **** Drive:
You know that apprehension that comes from meeting someone the first time, especially if they’re someone you’ve heard a lot about? I never feel awkward, as a rule, but I’m always on high alert to pick up the subtle metalanguage someone gives off upon being introduced. I was fully prepared to shake Maryam’s hand when I met her, but hold onto it and make sure she knew how happy I was to finally meet her and how many amazing things I’d heard about her. Her uncle opened the door, I said Allah’u’Abha, and something just clicked between him and I. We hugged three times. Right there on the threshold. It was like meeting an old friend. Strangest thing. Perhaps that broke the ice for all the Persians in the household (and trust me, it was all Persians, every person, and I felt completely at home to the point of not noticing it…I even felt Persian). Maryam was sitting with her back to me, but turned around facing the door. As I strode toward her she stood up and met me halfway. I didn’t even have time to reach my hand out when she wrapped me in a giant bear hug and said, “That’s from Sholeh.”
So. I thought that was it. Some really awesome coincidences and on the following Saturday night, one of the most intense dreams of my life. I even shared the 11:11 story with a couple of friends. Then I stopped thinking about it. Until I got stopped in my tracks today.
In an interesting overlap, I happened to be perusing Maryam’s Facebook profile on the day I was going to meet her. I noticed that one of the most recent comments on her wall was from someone named Setareh. You may remember me blogging about that name, which in Persian means “star.” I wrote her a quick note to say I liked her name, and that she was the first Setareh I’d ever heard of. We started a conversation. That was on January 11th.
Our topics ranged far and wide over the next few days, from astrophysics to animation, and all was well. I forget if I mentioned Setareh to Maryam the night I met her (I think I did) but at any rate it turns out she’s the sister of one of Maryam’s friends in Haifa. Once again, I didn’t give it another thought.
On January 17th, Setareh mentioned that she had some animations from her university studies posted online if I wanted to check them out. I didn’t immediately have the chance to look at them, but I made a mental note to go back.
As I write this, I was actually just counting the days between January 11th and today, when this new coincidence happened, just to make sure it was eleven. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me, but at the exact moment I confirmed that indeed eleven days have passed, I looked at the clock.
It was 11:11pm.
Today, January 22nd, on the way into work I was listening to a mix CD I just got in the mail from my friend Timmy. It is a compilation of 23 songs unrelated to each other except that each contains hand claps as part of the rhythm. It’s a brilliant concept, and a great mix. On the record he included the Iron & Wine song “Boy with a Coin” from the new album “The Shepherd’s Dog.” I just received my copy of “The Shepherd’s Dog” in the mail this week after ordering it on Amazon. “Boy with a Coin” is a song recommended to me by Sholeh last year on 7/11/07 when the album first came out. I remember her saying she’d had it on repeat all day. This morning I pulled out Timmy’s liner notes to make sure of the song name and something caught my eye: he had also included a song called “Love and War” by Rilo Kiley.
The subtitle to that song is 11/11/46.
I got a message from Setareh this evening about the Messenger probe’s recent flyby of planet Mercury on January 14th. I hadn’t heard about it, so I was glad she took the time to write me. We discussed the awe and wonder of discovery over the course of the next few hours. (Incidentally, in doing my research for this entry, I ran across a discussion on the theme of the unity of science and religion that specifically mentions the planet Mercury). Then, since we’d opened the thread, I saw the link to her animations and decided to take a look.
I stopped cold.
I hadn’t seen the title when I clicked on it, so I won’t tell you until you watch it. But just try to imagine my shock as this one-minute clip rolled.
It’s called Eleven Minutes Past Eleven.
Before I sat down to write this, (and I still haven’t told her anything about these experiences) I asked Setareh if there was any special meaning to the film.
Well 11:11…that would be telling wouldn’t it? Heh, seriously though, it was an idea that came from the fact that I often always spy the clock at 11:11…nearly every day which is so strange. So that alone inspired me to make an animation storyline. For that particular project I had to make a trailer for a potential film that had the theme of an ‘investigative quest’…so the quest this girl goes on takes place after she gets sucked into her cupboard and (leading on from the trailer) is taken to an alternate universe…and that is as far as I got! I am hoping to carry on and make it into a complete animation, but 3D can be tricky for me, so it may take some time!
She later added:
Sorry I forgot to add that in the animation, 11:11 is meant to signify a change, and something strange happening, almost spooky-like. So in the story ‘something’ enters the little girl’s dimension and causes her to get up and take a look…
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Something strange is happening. Something spooky. Perhaps there is a change on the horizon. Perhaps I should get up and take a look.
Posted on October 27th, 2007 by george.
As we were walking down Fifth Avenue last weekend in New York, I looked up and noticed the moon.
“How do you say ‘moon’ in Persian, Nas?”
“Setareh? That would be a beautiful name.”
Considering that I know Persians named “flower,” “breeze,” “joy,” “flame,” “angel,” and “typhoon,” (just to name a few!) I didn’t think “star” would be too much of a stretch.
Fast forward to this Thursday for my weekly dinner with a Persian family who just moved to Melbourne. We enjoy homemade meals and good company, then practice English and bits of Farsi. The mother and father are Farideh and Kazim. There are four grown children: Mehran, Mehrdad, Mehrad and Mehrvash. The latter two, brother and sister, live with the parents in Melbourne, along with Mehrad’s pregnant wife Sahar. It’s easy to see that Kazim has a fondness for the multi-facted word “Mehr,” which is not only the seventh month in the Persian calendar, but also means God, angel, and is a symbol of the sun.
“George, can you say ‘setareh?'” asked Mehrad.
“‘Setareh?’ Sure. Why?”
“Because that’s what we’re considering naming the baby.”