As the Sun Sets on Autumn…

Autumn Sunset
Another breathtaking view, in this case in the evening.

Watch one yourself!

Sunsets, the evening analog of sunrises (as referred to in an earlier blog post, no pun intended), are often argued to be more colorful than sunrises, and while there is some Internet consensus on this (including, yes, Wikipedia), in my observation, they can very likely be a draw.  Sometimes one could trump the other in boldness, and vice versa.  Yet both these borders between day and night are all beautiful in one way or another, no matter their brilliance of hue.  Every scene as such, whether entering or leaving a day, has a distinct beauty in either case.  And as this is autumn (which we soon leave), the colorful leaves and other fall paraphernalia can add to the beauty, making a great combination (just as discussed in the post on sunrise).

Psychologically, however, there is a difference.  Obviously, sunrise is a startup, sunset is a shutdown.  They often are applied, symbolically, to life’s beginning and end.  (Think of a name like “Sunset Burial Ground” and you’ll get the idea.)  Of course, once a person is in heaven, his/her direct contact with the Lord’s beauty is no comparison to any sunrise or sunset, which can only be imparted by God’s own beauty manifest on earth.  But after the “sun sets” on that decedent’s life, the “Son” rises immediately after then, and shall never set.  (cf. Rev 22:5)

Other psychological attributes can be compared, especially as the days crunch from June to December and expand from then to the next June.  This very day, after taking a late-afternoon nap, since it’s late November, I woke up, with a time of 5-something.  I would have thought this was in AM, given it was dark.  But I logically concluded this couldn’t be the case, and verified by knowing that the “PM light” on the alarm clock was lit.  It was time to get back to business!

Incidentally, it’s Thanksgiving today, and we should recognize these two beauties are among the many our world has to offer.  So on any day of the 365/6, when you see one (or any beautiful scene between the two ends whether day or night), thank the Lord for it.  He is worthy of that praise.

Dealing with Details Down and Dirty

An area I always struggled with before is what details actually “are.”  Well, eureka, it dawned on me, and here is your answer:  statements that answer questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how (much).  Therefore, giving more form, substance, and complexity to a question by answering these questions, and obviously giving them an answer.

However, details, both in their quality and quantity, can be a blessing or a curse.  (Of course, I enjoy the heavy stuff, but many others may not.)  Naturally, details on a topic are pursued by one who is genuinely interested.  If not, you wouldn’t do so.  And often, as they say, ignorance can be bliss.  (No wonder ads will say “see store for details” or websites say likewise “click link for details.”)

Heavy detail must be absorbed slowly, and only portions of what you learn are likely to stay.  Of course, though, if you need to know a particular fact that you may have forgotten, we have the Internet as a rich resource, as well as the more conventional library methods (which are slowly dying) and many other books as well, especially ones you may own.

Remember, in the end, learning is all about utility.  As they say, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it; but it may come back to you if you reviewed it.  Yet it’s not worth investing time into learning subjects (or even isolated facts) that are not relevant to what you would expect out of life.  Also, detail control is an art; it takes trial and error.

And like anything, information (at any level of detail), can be an idol.  Aside from Scripture, most information is secular and explains exactly that — worldly phenomena.

As 1 Cor 10:31 states, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  And, since “all” means “all,” that includes research and choosing reading material.  Amen?

At least you can judge books now, regardless of their covers!

Thoughts on Spring Courses

OK, so I love the content of biology, but it should pass a test (no pun intended).  This “test” is basically to determine my knack for microscopy.  Therefore, I might take a non-majors biology class (along with an unrelated course to accompany it), which is also especially good since I have been out of high school biology for over 10 years.  It should be quite easy in content, given all the stuff I’ve read so far.  Yet we seldom used microscopes, since the sp-ed high school I attended did not have a strong lab focus.  And when we did, just like toy microscopes I have used, it was less than satisfactory.

This will determine if I should pursue biology as a major.  If so, after all these years I would have been correct being the stalwart I have been for the subject, and I would go for it (perhaps as part of the proposed double major mentioned earlier in this blog.  But if not, hey, I can read websites or popular-level books on it.  Maybe even textbooks.  College isn’t the only way of learning, but keep in mind of what makes college what it is:  majors (and all the paraphernalia that goes with them) form a clique of sorts, and are separated by interest, in which one could (typically) care less about another.  Would a math major penetrate into the music major’s coursework, or the business major into biology, or the chemistry’s into criminal justice?  Barring minors and double majors, most likely not.  Besides, unless you are in that field of study, the level of material covered, especially in the junior and senior level courses (and perhaps even some sophomore ones), the info, and detail covered therein, would be of little consequence.  You must follow your own passions.  Alas, you must be willing to make trade-offs among courses, in which case you can only take some courses, but not all, in a major’s elective or flexible core sequence.  That could be the more troubling side, but you have your whole life to learn new things.  After all, that’s what periodicals, trainings, and for some, grad school is for.

And most intellectual territory has become very parochial and specialized, so you just have to find a niche.  For many people, their whole career may revolve around one course in their college years, so most other knowledge is lost.  And many courses are just stepping stones.  In some ways, it shows God’s sovereignty, in that he leads you what is necessary now (and thus part of his will) and what isn’t (stuff you learned for that time but is no longer relevant).  Moreover, while knowledge is power, it can be abused.  Moreover, in many cases, as we all know, ignorance can be bliss sometimes (cf. Eccl. 1:18).  This does not mean we can’t learn, but it should be kept within bounds.  Also too much bondage to knowledge can cause worldliness and even idolatry. (Rom 1:21-23, 25; 1 Cor 8:1-3)

You won’t learn everything there is to know.  If we did, we’d cease to be human.  Thus, as humans, thank the One who gave you any access to knowledge at all, including your very mind!  And enjoy what you DO learn rather than worry about what you can’t.  By the way, if you are in college, as you meet with your advisers, when picking electives, I would imagine it would often be based on past courses and your feelings on those.

Don’t be too smart for your own good!

Don’t Plug Future Outcomes into Present Decisions

So, today I was browsing through my Plant Phys textbook.  Mind you, I put my actual textbooks (Plant Phys, Animal Phys, and Cell Bio, as well as a book on Biomechanics that is unlikely to be used in a course) away in the closet until I actually take those courses at the university (as part of my double major in Biology and Geoscience), which are either updated editions or are a different text altogether.  And I may not take such a course at all.  (If that is the case, they will be judged then.)

Also, based on present conditions, there would be more information than needed for current purposes in those books; as opposed to popular titles like the Scientific American Library I collect (among others).  Yet I have donated them when I was ready to move on, given that I got a good grasp on it.  Moreover, many of my college courses in both majors may reflect much of their content.

As for the content of the Plant Phys text (and all other properly defined textbooks), which looks worthless now, may be worthy and useful when it is done in the context of a course.  But since I am not at that level yet (at least not scholastically, though I know quite a bit at the undergrad level outside of classwork), I am reading this material through the lens of one ill-equipped.  After I earn my degree, it should be second nature, whether I work following then in something related to biology, earth science, a little of both — or even neither!

But, rather than throwing them away (as I have often done previously), I’ll just put them away somewhere, until I encounter those subjects along the line in college (or if the Lord directs me, by self-study, or grad school, etc.)

Textbooks were never meant to be novels!

(The title of the post, by the way, happens to be the moral of this whole account!)

Sunrise in Autumn: Thoughts On A Convenient Double Beauty

07/11/2010, Italy --- Italy, Umbria, Mediterranean area, Perugia district, Dawn over the autumnal vineyards near Montefalco --- Image by © Maurizio Rellini/SOPA RF/SOPA/Corbis
Breathtaking, isn’t it? Two beauties in one!

A voice says, “Cry!” And I said,[c] “What shall I cry?”  All flesh is grass, and all its beauty[d] is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  (Isaiah 40:6-8, ESV)

As we approach winter and the Holiday season, we give a tribute to this wonderful season we are leaving called autumn or fall.  In a way, both scientifically and psychologically, it shows a shift from outer to inner beauty, just like people.  First of all, in the fall, chlorophyll (the molecules that make plants green; the “men at work” for photosynthesis) is robbed from the leaves with help from its own biological clock (detecting shorter days), and pigments providing yellow, orange, red, etc., surface.  The leaves thereby show their true colors.

If you could compare it to human beings, as people age, physical strength plummets (just as the chlorophyll is absorbed from the leaves).  And the youthful “outer” beauty typically observed in the teens, the 20s, and (at least a good part of) the 30s, shifts to an “inner” beauty that ages like fine wine through middle and old age.  Human middle age (as manifest chiefly in the 40s and 50s decades), is that “bridge” between youth and age.  Looks aren’t as important as character by that point.  (Since leaves are just plant organs, the closest parallel is to change color).  If looks dominate in young adulthood, and character in one’s golden years, middle age is kind of an amalgam of the two, though a progressive one.

OK, we mentioned shorter days, which, while often blamed for depression as manifest in SAD and such, will reverse come the winter solstice, the official astronomical end of autumn.  (Meteorologists tell us it ends November 30.)  The same is true for the summer solstice; light declines in both summer and fall, so “autumn” leaves can be observed in August, July, or even occasionally, June.  These are in decreasing order of count, and increasing order of day length.  May and June, when leaves are at a younger state of their “adult life,” are probably the greenest of months.  (July and August are hotter only because of a “seasonal lag,” but that’s for another post).

However, thanks to the shorter days, you don’t have to wake up so early to add another beauty to the picture:  the rising sun!  In June, where I live in Philadelphia, the sun rises earliest (around June or so) around 5:30 AM.  If there were no DST, it would be (yikes!) 4:30 AM.  (You can thank Ben Franklin for that shift; he originally proposed it).  Now, in mid-to-late November, it’s about 6:45.  Due to the increase in light in summer in polar or sub-polar regions, e.g., Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska, parts of Canada, etc., and during our winter, Antarctica, I wonder how they could ever get to sleep.  They say New York City never sleeps, but I wonder about Anchorage, Fairbanks, Reykjavik, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and countless other cities with few hours of summer darkness (NOT the case with NYC), can.  On the other hand, the do have plenty of winter darkness!

Anyway, sunrises show that every day is new, God is behind it all, and he beautifully says “good morning” using his Master Palette.  And on an annual scale, once spring comes, it represents the Easter message quite well.  So, while I’ll discuss that more then, suffice it to say that the combined beauty of the sun rising and the leaves dropping shows balance, beauty, and new beginnings.  As the scripture says above, we all decline in our physical beauty (and following then, die), but the word of God promises us eternity with Him, wherein earthly representations like sunrises and autumn leaves are no comparison to seeing God and his beauty directly.

AMEN

But for now, enjoy your early-morning walks when autumn is still here in 2015!  After all, there is no guarantee of tomorrow.  It’s also great I plan to study a double major of Biology & Geoscience in my U of choice after finishing community college, giving more insight into subjects included, like astronomy, meteorology, and botany.  In the next blog post will twist this to sunrise’s evening beauty rival, otherwise known as sunset.

Hold Your Horses, Let’s Think Twice a Little

It dawned on me that chemistry may not be the way to go since both the degree and the careers to which it leads are meticulous and mathematically intense.  But if I get so consumed with trying to be too much of a “polymath,” this may deter me from normal adult duties, like bills, raising a family (if applicable), and especially, work.

So that leaves me with the geosciences and biology as choices for majors at my choice college (West Chester U, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia).  But since I’m not too partial to either, I thought, hey, why not get the best of both worlds?  So I might as well get, you guessed it, a double major!

They share a few courses (i.e., physics, chemistry, math, etc.), most of which I shall complete during the community college portion.  Most of the work at West Chester will likely be in the specific fields of the majors.

And these two often intertwine.  For example, consider work with plants, and the branches of biology that deal with them, directly or indirectly.  The plants are the subject of botany; herbivores, their carnivorous or omnivorous predators are considered in zoology; and their interaction with each other is ecology.  Then you have genetics and cell biology, concerning how all this stuff runs.  And there are many subdisciplines of these, many of which are “tie-ins” of each other.  As for the geoscience side of things, mineralogy and petrology deal with minerals and rocks, respectively.  Many processes shape the earth, and there are courses for that.  The weather, of course, is discussed in meteorology, and astronomy shows how celestial bodies affect what goes on this terrestrial ball.

Or, from a geological perspective, if I pursued petroleum geology, well, guess what, petroleum is brought to you, by, yes, fossils!  Paleontology, a course in the geoscience lineup, is essentially where biology and geology meet, thereby making many biological courses relevant.

Whichever major I choose to center my career on (if it is only one, as usual), the other one is doubtless beneficial.  Pray for God’s guidance for me, as He directs one’s steps no matter what his/her plans are.  (cf. Prov 16:9)

I hope the field isn’t too rocky — or wild!

Could I Possibly Be a “Renaissance Man” for the 21st Century?

What might (hopefully) these two men have in common?  Read on!

Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_presumed_self-portrait_-_WGA12798 Do the Dew
If I was ever to drive (I don’t currently), and if I was to pursue the “personalized plate” option, there are two options from there.  One could be “80 EIGHT”, for 1988, my birth year.  More presently appropriate, however, would be the preference of “REN MAN,” which, you guessed it, means “Renaissance man,” also known as a “polymath.”  But I’ll worry about that then, despite Philadelphia’s SEPTA service being sub-par.

As a lover of textbooks, educational websites/TV, and anything that increases knowledge (and of course, with the Bible as the centerpiece of it all, that does more than inform, but transforms) both before and after collegiate studies, somewhere in my adult life I may adequately qualify as a “21st century Renaissance man.”  Sounds a little oxymoronic, but hey, following the regional radio ad, anything can happen!  (Inside or or out of New Jersey.)  By the way, in college, I may major in chemistry, since it is the “central science” that virtually everything else depends on, for, after all, everything is composed of chemicals.

“Frank Carr learned, Frank Carr learns, Frank Carr will always learn!”  I’m no communist like Lenin was, but the paraphrase fits the bill.  And of course, once I’m 6 feet under (no morbidity intended!) I’ll be with the Lord anyway, so earthly facts may or may not be relevant, though at this point, most of my “secular” learning is God-glorifying, particularly in its potential to allow for more intimacy with God through the wonders of His created natural and social world.

And once I do have an adequate knowledge of a multitude of subjects, maybe some clever applications can come forth.  Even in the Bible!  For example, my knowledge of transpiration gave an extra insight (though not essential, as these are recent scientific discoveries involved, unheard of in either Testament), in the passage of Jeremiah 4:11,12, which I will make a separate post concerning that shortly.  There have been many candid applications and notices of knowledge of information that isn’t intrinsically practical (e.g., on the now-ended CSI, where a cranial structure in the eye socket that was learned personally, was mentioned).  But I’ll try not to burn myself out though, cf. Eccl. 12:12, and find a place to draw the line.

And remember, knowledge is best when applied.  Maybe many different hobbies could pop up throughout my adult life, comprising the rest of the early portions, middle age, and especially, my golden years (though I better not get dementia/Alzheimer’s too soon!).  This could range from hydroponics to dog breeding to running a weather station for a TV or radio station to political lobbying and activism.

Three words:  Knowledge is power!  Plus four more:  Glorify God with it!