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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/tvelocity
Rated: E · Book · Personal · #2232494
Thoughts on the mysteries of the universe, the human soul, and cats
Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment proposed by Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 to explore the uncertainty of the state of everyday objects when subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. In this problem, Schrödinger proposes that when a cat is placed in a box with a radioactive isotope and a vial of poison that will break when exposed to radioactive decay, the uncertainty inherent in predicting the state of a subatomic particle such as that emitted in radioactive decay will cause the cat to exist in the quantum state of being both alive and dead. This uncertain state will persist until someone looks into the box, collapses the quantum wave function holding the cat in both of these states, and sees the result.

Sometimes I feel like the guy holding the box with the cat in it, afraid to look in the box, and in constant trepidation over what my investigation will uncover. Other times I feel like the cat, trapped between uncertain possible futures. This blog is an attempt to explore the constant mysteries of life where ever they may come from and try to put a friendly human face on a cold, uncaring, and chaotic universe.

What would you do? Would you open the box to uncover the mystery and risk your curiosity killing the cat? Or would you let the mystery endure and build a story upon it, secure in the knowledge that whatever we learn, life goes on, in one state or another?
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September 20, 2021 at 12:34pm
September 20, 2021 at 12:34pm
#1017767
For this entry, I am taking a page from other bloggers and going over an article, responding to it point by point. I’m not sure if this is the best way to write a blog, but it’s certainly a way to claw yourself past a dry spell and maybe juice a little creativity and thoughtfulness in the process. Not the most original thing for me to do, but here it is.

Anxiety and depression is a subject that’s been done to death this past year, and yet the antidepressant med market is projected to continue to rise into the next two years. I’m saying to invest in Pfizer. No, not really. This isn’t an investment article. But to say that it’s been a trying time would be an understatement, among a pile of other understatements, and there is no denying that the times have taken a toll on our health. To that end, an article just hit Time magazine on the subject of anxiety:

https://time.com/6099133/why-you-feel-tired-all-the-time/

A little over a month ago, I started feeling more fatigued than usual. Just about everything in my life—from getting out of bed to exercising to writing to coaching to reading—required a significant amount of activation energy.

Naturally there was the anxiety that accompanies the loss of employment due to the pandemic, but the job market is well on the way toward recovering. And many jobs have transition to the work-at-home model, which removes the stress of rush-hour traffic and making it into the office on time before Bill Lumbergh can make his way to your cubicle, coffee cup in hand, passive-aggressive admonishment on the tip of his tongue.

These struggles are not new. They were a common theme over the past three years in my reporting on The Practice of Groundedness, and they were a large part of what drove me to write the book. But they are intensifying. Google searches for the phrase “Why am I tired all the time?” have been at their historical highs between July 2021 and September 2021.

Ah, so you have a book to plug. Well, that’s okay I guess. As long as we benefit? As for Google searches, sometimes they’re a self-perpetuating thing.

There are, of course, many reasons for our collective fatigue: a year-and-a-half-long pandemic, social unrest and democratic backslide—to name just a few.

True enough. Maybe my personal issues figure into it as well. To what extent is generally being a train wreck a factor?

But even beyond these obvious drivers, I think there is something else going on: We are replacing excitement with anxiety.

Do tell.

Even the calmest, most equanimous people benefit from at least occasional periods of excitement. There is a reason that “flat-lining” is associated with death. We thrive with some degree of oscillation in our lives. The pandemic has, by and large, taken these punctuated bouts of excitement away.

So, the problem is actually boredom?

Attending concerts, sporting events, movies, even going to restaurants (let alone taking a proper vacation) are not as straightforward as they used to be.

Masks, vaccine mandates, and the trepidation of facing an invisible plague lurking among the masses interfering with our fun.

Consider this-all-too common example: You are feeling kind of sluggish and bored, so you go online and check trending topics on social media or visit any of the major news websites. You are not going to these destinations to learn anything specific, per se. You are going because you want a jolt to your otherwise flat-lining system. The jolt comes in the form of a horror story about politics, COVID-19, Afghanistan or any number of other unsettling topics.

The insidious doom-scroll. Of course we’ve been doing this for years, but when it’s all we have, it becomes a weight on our psyche to lug around. Maybe that’s why we’re all so tired. From lugging the weight. God, I really need to work out.

Put it all together and not only are we lacking many sources of positive and energizing excitement, but we are replacing them with negative and exhausting sources of anxiety.

The downward spiral. So now what?

The solution, I believe, requires three steps. First, we need to stop replacing our desire for excitement with anxiety.

Just don’t do it!

Second, we need to do everything possible to insert some positive excitement into our lives in a way that feels safe.

Now do something else…

Third, we need to be patient. While there is still much that we can do that is safe, it is also true that there is much we can’t.

Lord, grant me the strength to accept… yadda, yadda. I get it.

I looked up Brad Stulberg’s Amazon page, and it turns out he’s a regular publisher of self-help books. Self-help is a mightily crowded field, and I hope Brad isn’t suffering too much anxiety over it. This article gives a glimpse into a possible pervasive problem we are experiencing as a result of multiple negative inputs. It does read as bemoaning first-world problems, but that would too easily dismiss problems with real consequences, such as depression. The article doesn’t go into great detail (you have to buy the book, I guess.) But it hits on the real anxieties that keep us awake at night and grinds us down during the day. Brad suggests unplugging to deal with it. Perhaps that beats drinking oneself into a stupor every night.

In any case, Dune comes out late October. That’s as much excitement as I’ve experienced lately. I might do a blog post about it afterward. In the meantime, go look for something exciting to do (that won’t kill you) and leave off the doom-scroll.
March 28, 2021 at 10:56pm
March 28, 2021 at 10:56pm
#1007223
I recently finished reading the Silmarillion, which is a series of stories written by J.R.R. Tolkien and posthumously published by his son, Christopher. This book is not an easy read, and reads like something between the Bible, and ancient Greek epics, which might have been what Tolkien had in mind when he wrote it.

What struck me about this work was the tone which pervaded the stories and became more prominent toward the end – that of sadness and loss. This loss refers to the loss of magic and mystery in the world, which is of course something endlessly discussed by scholars of Tolkien and fantasy nerds like myself. This theme runs through all of Tolkien’s works, including his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, where magic is being pushed out of the world by technology by way of industry.

This theme is common among the works of this genre, as if the authors ascending to the heights of prose to catch a glimpse of the dying light of fantastical worlds, now being drowned out by the harsh, neon glare of modern society. Some work clings to the magic, notably by the authors of “urban fantasy” such as Jim Butcher, Neil Gaiman, and J.K. Rowling. But these works simply transplant elements of magic into a modern setting and treat it as a utility, like electricity. Not to say it isn’t entertaining to read these things, but the Tolkienesque epic fantasy themes of change are absent here, the idea that as the world changes, so must the nature of magic itself, if it is to continue to exist.

However, I would invoke science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law which states,” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This would refer to a culture clash of sorts between two civilizations of hugely disparate technological advancement. But isn’t this simply another form of magic, one with future implications? What answers would sci-fi’s questions about the future bring in response to the fantasy’s requiem of the past?

Mysteries lurk in the shadows, out of the corners of our eyes, and even just off the edges of our phone sceens. Consider the continuing popularity of UFO sightings. Much attention is levied upon reports of Navy pilots who have recorded what the military calls “Unexplained Aerial Phenomena.” Tons of electrons are spilled daily posting speculation on the nature of these phenomena, never failing to ignore or discount rational explanations. Or consider the ongoing belief in phenomena such as the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, or Nemesis (also known as Planet 9 – 10). Myths like these persist despite the advance of science and rational thought and there are no signs that they are going to creep away into the mists any time soon. So, what do with them?

You write stories of course! You spin these myths into a larger narrative to delight and entertain, and to make commentary on the cultural impact of these modern myths. One piece that comes to mind is David Brin’s short story “Those Eyes,” in which the story is told from the point of view of alien visitors to Earth who engage in mischief and hijinks, only to discover that they face their greatest enemy in skepticism. This is also masterfully done by Neil Gaiman in “American Gods,” where old myths clash with the new. Both of these stories play with the trope of mythical beings who exist solely because people believe in them, and when the belief ends, so do the beings. These are the stories, among many, which blur the line between myth and reality.

So, where is this meandering essay going? I think Tolkien was too quick to write an eulogy to the loss of magic from our world. It persists to this day, flitting about just out of the corners of our eyes, creeping about in dark places where only fear can see, and dancing in the clouds, taunting pilots. It is still there for anyone who cares to look, whether in whispered narratives around a campfire, or blazing across the message boards of the internet. The magic is there for the taking. All we need do is make it our own.

https://www.davidbrin.com/fiction/thoseeyes.html
February 5, 2021 at 11:36am
February 5, 2021 at 11:36am
#1003699
What is flavor anyway? The most obvious answer is that it is how people perceive food upon consumption. All perception can be altered, of course. I recently saw a video clip from America’s Test Kitchen channel, where they got an actual chocolate expert to taste two different samples of chocolate while listening to two different musical clips. The taster gave a different impression of each sample, while acknowledging the music playing in the background. It turns out that ATK had tricked the taster. The two samples were identical! It seems that the taster’s perception of flavor had changed based upon the music he was hearing. I haven’t had the chance to test this phenomenon myself, but if it’s true, what else could alter our taste? Could it be things like the lighting? Ambient temperature? Our mood? Something we might be remembering at the time? Many people gobble down breakfast while rushing off to work, and I wonder how much more they might enjoy breakfast if they got up earlier and ate their breakfast slowly with their coffee while listening to their favorite recording artist. Might their day go a little smoother if they enjoyed their first meal?

Years ago, I made an effort to do more of my own cooking, and though I don’t have the expertise of a professional chef, I actually find my meals to be more fulfilling than when I eat out at restaurants, even good ones. And I even lost weight. I have a collection of cookbooks now, including two which are actual textbooks for a culinary school which go beyond simple recipes and actually discuss cooking theory – something very useful for one wanting to experiment. And experiment I did, sometimes with disastrous results. I once tried making a casserole that ended up as a suitable substitute for reinforced concrete, requiring me to soak my casserole dish in citric acid. My culinary history is littered with such mishaps, but the overall experiences have been more than rewarding. They have enriched my life, and dare I say it, the lives of people I have cooked for.

So, there you have it. Food is much more than something to quell our instinct to consume nutrition for survival. It is more integral to our everyday experience than most people realize. This goes to preparing as well as cooking it. I hope anyone reading this considered cracking open a recipe book and whipping up something in their kitchen. Watching friends and family members enjoy something you spent time, energy and love preparing makes it all worthwhile.
February 3, 2021 at 12:32am
February 3, 2021 at 12:32am
#1003531
I've always had a fascination with Frank Herbert's Dune series of books. I found his universe strange, yet captivating, with people in it who have fired my imagination and even inspired my own attempts at speculative fiction. The different aristocratic houses, the bizarre cultures and weird races have made Dune a universe I have wanted to explore again and again. Though I was less impressed with Brian Herbert's continuation of the series, they are still entertaining.

While I've been thirsting for a look at the new movie, it won't hit theaters until October, where it was pushed due to the pandemic. I've missed movies this past year, and I was looking forward to this one, especially given that it was directed by Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve is fast becoming one of my favorite directors, eclipsing even Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan, though he's still relatively new on the scene. I expect great things from him.

Which brings me to the central thing in the story, that which everyone seeks, the thing which must flow for the world to work. I'm talking about the vaccine, of course. I can't see this movie without it! I know it sounds puerile to complain about the distribution of a life-saving vaccine over a film when actual lives are at stake all over the world, but sometimes I grasp for normality in a world turned upside-down, and going to the movies is one way to feel normal.

In a way, the spice is an allegory for the vaccine itself: a substance that everyone needs to the extent that the world stops without it. Frank Herbert perhaps meant it as an allegory for oil, but it works for many of the things we need. I just hope we don't end up going to war over vaccines; we seem to be fighting over just about everything else.

Are you looking forward to Dune? Have you read the series' books? Fan of Villeneuve?

The spice must flow.
February 2, 2021 at 12:19am
February 2, 2021 at 12:19am
#1003458
It's a new year, and a new month, and it's about time I started adding to the blog here at the Cat. That, I'm tired of looking at those nagging "Update Your Blog!!!" notifications. So here's to sharing my thoughts and opinions on subjects of public and private interest, such as they are. The trouble is, I'm the kind of person who carefully considers his words before committing them to the ether (which is why I don't use Twitter, the platform of choice for those lacking any restraint). I end up pushing back, and pushing back until it's been months since I've shared anything online, and I've become irrelevant to the conversation. While I won't share something every day, I hope to at least pique the interest of anyone casting a glance this way and hopefully moving them to consider a subject from a whole new perspective. What else is a blog for? Thanks for reading!
November 23, 2020 at 7:10pm
November 23, 2020 at 7:10pm
#998979
On Thursday, people all across the continent will gather together in the annual tradition of bingeing and gossiping. While the tradition dates back centuries, even before the Pilgrims allegedly stepped from the Mayflower onto the Rock of History, our contemporaries seemed to have claimed it for their own. Even Old-World cultures seemed to have adopted the practice. And why not? It’s a time for family and good cheer, and it conveniently takes place at a time when the harvest is almost universally agreed to take place (sorry Australia), and pantries across the world are overflowing with offerings to the gods of gluttony.

Needless to say, things are different this year. Gatherings have become verboten to protect the public health from the nasty bugs that are making their rounds. I had to cancel my own Turkey Day plans to protect the health of the vulnerable, and there are many in my family. Of course, this doesn’t mean that no one can get together at all. If the social circle is small and individuals take care to protect themselves and others from infection, the risk is manageable, though far too many are continuing to put themselves and others at excessive risk because America… or freedom… or something.

As I write this, my own thanksgiving plans are in flux, like some kind of shapeshifter that can’t decide on a form. Those that I would have over are seeing their own plans come together only to be cast aside, the proverbial battle plan that has encountered the enemy. I will probably do what I always do and invite a few friends and family from my already small social circle, in keeping with the safe practices of our current necessity.

This year, Thanksgiving comes courtesy of silicon and electricity, a softly glowing update to an old tradition where social distancing is the perpetual guest to all events. Why do we call it “social distancing” anyway? We can still talk to and even see each other thanks to the miracles of modern technology. I think a more appropriate term would be “physical distancing” to hopefully describe all our circumstances these holidays. Physical, not social distancing will be my norm.

And so it goes as we hurtle to the close of a year I want to leave in the street for the dogs, except I suspect even the dogs will turn their noses up at it. Though a solitary creature by nature, I will use these upcoming holidays to remind myself and others in my social circles that we all still ride this tumbling rock together, even if it will be at a couple of arms-lengths for the foreseeable future. So, this is one of the very few things I am thankful for this year: that the sun still shines, that cats still purr when you scratch them on the chin, and that we have never been better equipped to battle loneliness over the holidays during a pandemic than we are right now.
October 18, 2020 at 11:32pm
October 18, 2020 at 11:32pm
#996206
October is upon us, and with it the annual tradition of Halloween, All Saints’ Eve, Dia de los Muertos, or whatever the regional tradition is. It takes place on the halfway point between the solstice and the equinox, by rough ancient reckoning (which is often pretty accurate). This day is called Samhain in Gaelic and was celebrated as harvest day by the Celts before Christianity co-opted this tradition for its own purposes.

Another name for this day is the lesser-known (at least in North America) Nos Calan Gaeaf in Welsh, denoting the last day of the harvest which included the culling of herds and distribution of meat to the population. In fact “Nos Calan Gaeaf” literally translates as “Winter’s Eve” and marks the beginning of the “darker half” of the year, when temperatures drop, food becomes scarce, and the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the spirits weakens. To me, this source hews the closest to the aesthetic of Halloween as practiced in North America, with people donning strange and often macabre costumes and heading out into the night to “trick” the neighbors.

The Welsh believed that a terrifying spirit walked the earth during this time called Hwch Ddu Gwta (do NOT ask me how to pronounce this), which took the form of a tail-less black sow with a headless woman. In some sources, the people in a village would gather around a bonfire to celebrate Nos Calan Gaeaf, and when the fire burned down they would flee to their homes, lest Hwch Ddu Gwta catch the last one and devour their soul. In other sources, a man would dress up as the tail-less sow and come out at night to chase the children home, instilling in them the fear of staying out too late.

There are variations in the Autumnal traditions throughout western history, but this particular holiday fascinates me on different levels. In countries like Japan, India, or in Native American pre-Columbian traditions, the concepts of humanity’s links to the spiritual world are recognized and celebrated throughout the year. But spiritual links often manifested through the celebration of events like the solstice, equinox, and other reliable, unshakeable events that marked different parts of the year. I think these celebrations were early humanity’s attempts to feel closer to the inscrutable world they lived upon. You can see this yearning in the ancient pre-Christian folklore throughout Europe as well. What the spirits did was often as mysterious as whatever was powering the forces of nature. The spirits had their own agenda, and humans would do what they could to coexist with them. Then, along came Christianity, and with it the attempt to explain everything in terms of a single spirit which put humanity at the pinnacle of all creation. In this context, whatever the spiritual world had to offer became irrelevant except for how it related to humans. This new religion drove the ancient spirits into the shadows, where they gained an often undeserved reputation as evil or monstrous. Undoubtedly this was due to their strange nature, and people’s innate fear of the unknown. In the West, the celebration of the spirits was similarly driven into a single day of the year and its meaning watered down and all but forgotten.

However, the spirits live on, if only in the aesthetic of an annual candy hunt. But hints of this mysterious pagan spiritualism peek through. In the East, cultures such as that of Japan still honor the spirits, or kami, with offerings made throughout the year to millenia-old shrines that still dot the modern cities that have grown up around them. Japanese animism even inspired the hugely-popular Pokemon franchise, with kami being represented by cute and colorful animal-like spirits. While the Japanese do celebrate Halloween (in fact it's a huge event there) I think that they still maintain their connection to their animistic past. I have seen the schoolchildren stop by the shrines on their way home to tie ribbons to the statues of kami they are honoring.

With a preference for the fantasy genre I have an affinity for these mysteries, not necessarily in solving them, but in watching them weave the tapestries of culture around themselves. The most intriguing thing about them is the mystery of these beings. Many of the things that the spirits do make no sense to us. But not all mysteries need to be solved, and not every mystical element in the story needs to be explained. Doing so can backfire (hello, midichlorians!) and rob a fantasy world of some of its beauty. Reading about these ancient stories in pagan folklore, eastern folklore, or even the Brothers Grimm reveals entities with motivations beyond human understanding, and that is okay! I’m perfectly content to let the spirits exist as the bridge between nature and our own imaginations.
October 2, 2020 at 4:54pm
October 2, 2020 at 4:54pm
#994861
Recently the Australian National University School of Physics published a paper on the prevalence of an isotope of iron known as 60Fe, or Iron-60. More specifically, they found an increased concentration of it imbued in sediment that dates from about 33,000 years ago to the present. According to the paper, this suggests that Earth’s solar system is travelling through the remnants of a supernova that exploded millions of years ago and left its ashes to drift down upon our home.

Supernovae are fascinating phenomenon. A supernova is what happens when a star, reaching the end of its life, decides to go out with a bang. Some of the heavier elements, such as iron, copper, and phosphorus are made in these cataclysmic explosions, eventually collecting into planets such as ours. Countless supernovae from eons past have seeded our planet with the essential building blocks of life. As Carl Sagan said, we are star stuff.

California is a blazing inferno at the moment. Perhaps having the gasoline of climate change poured on it hasn’t helped matters, but fires are nothing new here. They happen every year, and when they are done, the following spring new growth pokes it head through the ashes and turns the charred countryside green again.

I haven’t really been thinking about death lately (despite being of morbid temperament) but the supernova story got me thinking about the cycle of life. Death is a common event in literature, an extreme event from which can be extracted the most drama and emotional response. Rebirth is also a common theme, usually to complement death. The promise of rebirth is the driving hope beneath many religions.

I think of writing as the single coin on which death and rebirth are two different sides. When an author puts words to paper, the words are frozen on the page, unchanging in a sort of temporal death. When someone reads it, the author’s thoughts are reborn and take on a new life. Even centuries after the author has died, their work lives on, and it can change based upon the perspective of whoever is reading. Think of the many ways that Shakespeare has been reimagined, or Homer, or the poetry of Beowulf. Think of the stories they further inspired throughout the ages, new stories rising from the ashes of the old. In a way these great authors are the supernovae of their time, and we still see their echoes today. I guess it’s as close to immortality as we will ever get.

Why do you write? Personally I wouldn’t want actual immortality even if it were possible. Can you imagine the boredom after an eon or two? But while I don’t write for this reason, I wouldn’t turn down the chance to go supernova – assuming I actually had that sort of talent. What do you think? Would you go supernova if you could, seeding the literary stars so as to inspire for centuries? Or are you more of Earth-friendly spectral class-G star, warm and reliable, but never standing out in a galaxy of billions?
September 25, 2020 at 1:04pm
September 25, 2020 at 1:04pm
#994186
Today, an icon of jurisprudence lies in State as she is honored by those we elected to lead us. Among many things Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for, justice is listed as most prominent: justice for the poor, the oppressed, the disadvantaged. Many have applauded her for her compassion. Others have cursed her for her activism. But one thing all will agree on is that an important mind from the U.S. Supreme Court has passed away.

To say that RBG represented justice seems obvious. I mean, she was a judge, right? But what exactly does the term "justice" mean? It should surprise no one that many brilliant minds throughout the ages could not answer this question definitively. Even Socrates struggled with this question in his dialectics. The Oxford English Dictionary defines justice as:

         1. just conduct

         2. fairness

         3. exercise of authority in the maintenance of right

Not very helpful, is it? The dictionary goes on to define "just" as "morally right or fair." As usually we can count on the dictionary to be reductive and useless. So, for my purposes, I'm going to define justice as "getting what one deserves."

What do we deserve? A firefighter who pulls someone out of a burning building might deserve recognitions and awards for their heroism. A thief might deserve a jail sentence for their crime. A business owner might deserve profit for their hard work starting up their business. The list could go on ad infinitum. But when discussing justice at the level the Justice Ginsberg presided at, the picture becomes more complicated. For the Supreme Court deals with justice at a far vaster scale. They deal with systemic justice, or what whole groups of people deserve. This is a gordian knot that great thinkers have been trying to unravel for centuries, with no end in sight.

The concept of systemic justice makes me think of the protests that are happening around the country, the world even, regarding the conduct of police toward certain groups of people. Those who protest and those who support the protests clearly believe that justice is not being served, that people are not getting what they deserve, that the law is net serving everyone equally.

On the flip side of this issue, I hear people complaining about the damage happening as a result of the riots and lootings that are occurring sporadically at the fringes of these protests. These comments reflect people's concerns over security.

Turning back to the so-reliable dictionary, we find the definition of "secure" to be:

         1. untroubled by danger or fear

         2. safe

         3. reliable; certain not to fail

I saw a news article a while ago which included a photograph of a married couple standing outside their home brandishing guns as protestors walked by. Clearly this couple had concerns about their immediate security. But what about the big picture? Debate rages about how to guarantee security without impacting civil rights, how to employ the police against criminal elements without harming justice. How to create a safe world that is also worth living in.

But here is where the paradox lies, the one that I think security proponents don't see: these protests started because justice wasn't being served. Does that mean that without justice, there can be no security?
Whatever the answer, I think that the record shows that Justice Ginsburg stood for justice, not just in the legal sense, but in the moral sense. Perhaps she understood the security paradox, or perhaps she simply wanted to do right by all. I hope whoever replaces her can bring the same level of compassion and humanity to the judiciary as Ginsburg did, for we are going to need it.

September 17, 2020 at 12:30pm
September 17, 2020 at 12:30pm
#993572
“Life can be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”

-Søren Kierkegaard

With the plague raging around us I find that I don’t have much in the way of personal activity to write about with everything being more or less in stasis. That said, I recently went to see “Tenet” in a more or less empty theater and tried not to cough. To say that Christopher Nolan’s latest offering was mind-bending would be an understatement of the highest order. I suspect that I will have to watch it again to understand it completely, a goal which still might not be achievable.

This movie played with the concept of time travel in a unique way, in which people and objects could be put through a machine that would cause them to start moving backward through time. I won’t leave any spoilers here in case anyone reading this plans to see it, but suffice to say that some very strange scenes were shot and I will definitely be buying the blue-ray just to see the behind-the-scenes material that will no doubt be included. This is not the first Christopher Nolan movie that used non-linear storytelling, but it is the first to actually have scenes running backwards.

But I was also fascinated by the existential question posed by the plot. What if you could see your own life running backwards and relive every moment, every decision you made in reverse-real time? Your own perspective will always be running forward in time, but of the rest of the world? It might be possible for us to remember things out of sequence or to attribute the wrong cause to a particular event, or to even get cause and effect out of sequence. Imagine actually being able to watch previous events happen.

The movie also touches on free will, implying the question as to whether we can choose to do something differently if we have knowledge of the future. While he doesn’t explore this in depth, Nolan seems to suggest that there is no free will, as the characters end up doing the exact things that they saw themselves doing in reverse. Paradoxically, this seems to conflict with another concept the movie addresses: the idea of faith.
The word “tenet” itself refers to a core value of any faith. The protagonist is Kierkegaard’s “knight of faith,” freed of worldly constraints by, oddly enough, technology. He is free in a moral sense to act in furtherance of his mission, secure in the knowledge that the moral scales are in his favor. In this case, he is already aware of victory. But he is not free in the metaphysical sense, because he has already seen the future and still can’t deviate from it. The outcome of the events cannot be changed because his inevitable actions cannot be changed. It is a weird pairing of concepts.

I don’t know if Nolan had Kierkegaard in mind when he wrote Tenet, but I’m certain that he will have many armchair philosophers (aren’t they all armchair philosophers?) tumbling down rabbit holes to pick apart the story.

I know that this is all rather heady stuff and will probably bore a lot of people, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and thought I would share those thoughts here. Congratulations if you made it this far, and if you find this subject matter to be a snoozer, know that Tenet is also an adrenaline-fueled action fest worthy of Christopher Nolan’s best efforts and will entertain, with or without any deep dives into the movie’s … er … tenets.

Enjoy!

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