What I Don’t Know About Hollywood Could Fill A Book
I found myself listening to the new podcast by Jessie Ennis and Brie Larson at the local Anytime Fitness on Saturday (finally; my podcast app seemed to have been on the fritz in my rented apartment), asking myself a question:
Who is Jessie Ennis?
We know who Brie Larson is. She’s not hiding anything. You can just tell.
But as I settle in to learn about these two women between squats and bench presses, I found myself suddenly launched into a fascinating conversation about heroics of virtuous authenticity and the resonance of the human spirit.
But what I didn’t hear is who Jessie Ennis is.
I’m not one to snoop online by nature or privacy, but the podcast knacked such a simple and intriguing premise that I had to do some detective work.
It turns out that Jessie Ennis has played a character on one of my favorite television series about the redonkulous sardonics of politics, second only to the flying eagle idealism of the West Wing. (Although we can debate ferociously over beers when Veep failed Selena Meyers, or if America did.)
What gave Jessie Ennis her heart of presence was a searching I noticed, or felt I noticed, throughout her voicing of her journey, a kind of fishing for the place of star power that Brie Larson so naturally occupies (and has been trained so thoroughly and expertly and intensely by qualified professionals for years).
This kind of soul quest has always tugged at the heart strings of my mind, and probably has been reasons I have always found such comfort in mentorship and why I have gravitated towards professorship for so many years.
So, anyway, I did the quantum tunneling of introspection into the self that is either my forte or my craft, and tried to imagine myself on the couch with Brie and Jessie sharing a beer after hours (or disgusting colored non-alcoholic liquid) and sharing myself as the insightful scientist who has his perspective.
Once upon a time, I actually worked briefly in a DARPA neuroscience facility and had the privilege to learn about a mechanical model of the brain from a career professor who has much more expertise than me, but who taught me how to look within myself with the model to better experience my experience.
This kind of meta-learning is what artificial intelligence will become, and what our children and children’s children will learn in their elementary and kindergarten school years as a model of emotional self-regulation. Education will need to catch up to the science and politics has always been the slowest bear. Until then we can enjoy the happiness of seeing into the crystal blue eyes of the future and holding space knowing the truth is there for those who look.
It taught me to not be afraid of regarding my body as a system of systems, and finding truth is that partial description of ourselves that is useful as a looking glass, even if we have to hold in our mind the knowledge that it is the partial truth. Quantum mechanics like to explore the nature of our experience as a collection of partial truths always entwining, which is maybe more… romantic than true, but our mind only ever knowns of the present moment.
I hope this gives any reader a sense of power over the movement of energy she experiences within herself, a platform of control for the mind the observer and that gives her the distance to find herself in the engine room building new. That is the bearing witness to growth Brie Larson knows so well.
Then, as I often do when I have comfortable and captive friends with me, I talked at length about a passion of mine in the context of a mystery wrapped up to be a gift to the audience. There is something quixotic and beautiful I have always found in putting my passions in a carry-on bag to the experiences of life, our waking mind tracking our curiosity as our eyes do their story work.
Lastly, because of my genuine heart and faith in thrills of shared-exploration, I tried to connect my mystery and self and idealism to one I suggested to myself we might be sharing during the brief and embarrassing moments I peeked on her Instagram, again searching for some idea of who this person may really be. It is important to find an idealism that really lives close to the heart of her because friendships endure on the sails of the winds of the shared idealism.
I wrote this Saturday night and briefly published it, until I felt too much like I was intruding on a relationship to which I wasn’t invited, and uncomfortable.
But in considering the nuanced dependencies with which delicate matters of giving gifts and making space unfolds in life, if not production, I decided I had to publish after all, respect be now jeopardized, to prevent the suggestion that any of the contents of this letter are privileged, private, or mistaken for secret.
At Jessie Ennis’ suggestion, hi @brielarson can we be friends? You’ve got a unicorn of a podcast and I sure do see it going places. I’d like to see starlight. I’d like to see us grow. And more than likely you will roar.
It always starts with a dark place. That crawl within ourselves we sandbag ourselves to take, and when it happens we find ourselves blind. For me, when my body drags me into that place, I no longer find myself in fear — I have trained myself carefully over the years to know I cannot be hurt by a mental place inside my head. How could I be? How could I call that self-love if I was?
Then, I cracked open a book — a flash of lightning just struck as I wrote that.
The darkness is an illusion — this was a powerful insight. That darkness we experience when we retract into ourselves is not a darkness at all — it is simply an unseeing blindness, which is completely a separately differentiable thing.
We may close our eyes when we walk in a room and not know whether the lights are on. We may walk in a sunlit room and close our eyes — the room is now dark, but that does not mean the sun went out. It is our ego perspective.
That thrill of crawling within ourselves is adrenaline. It’s real. It’s tangible. It releases through your body and brain at your command, and feels amazing.
Do it. Do it again. Do it all day long and until the sun comes up. Do it more.
The room goes dark — the room goes unseeing — because adrenaline changes the command of your brain to adapt to the world. It pulls concentration to the back part of your brain where your visual cortex is, but, evolutionarily, us post-savannah humans have hooked that cortex up to our language centers, and generated math. It turns out that vast fields of mathematics are based on the same mental constructs our brain processes the visual fluidity and matrix of the real world, and when you’re not worrying away your lives being chased by a bear or two, you can use that spare capacity to write out truths of the world in an invented language. Maybe that is why the first mathematicians of the western dark ages were monks locked away in cloistered monasteries.
Anyway, you might think that adrenaline makes you better at seeing, but your brain already knows you are in relative safety, and so your eagle-eyed vision does not do you much good for the problem you are solving — which is the question you asked yourself before entering your transom of your mind-self.
So, what your brain does to thank you for this preparation is connect the thinking computer part of your brain to your social and self-reflective self.
No reason to see through your eyes, there. So the room goes blank — unseeing.
This is probably that fear of walking up to a microphone the first times, too.
Strange ensemble of a streaming service but what do I know about Hollywood? Not much
The first time I wrote to Congress I was enduring, excited, and endearing.
I had correctly resolved that mine was a duty of the first degree to engage my Congressperson with whatever knowledge I knew they hadn’t yet conveyed in their public relations materials, or in content on their websites. What I had to overcome was the screen of personal fear that had kept me cloistered in a haze of what I had come to believe was my obligation to respect their time.
See, scientists never really get the attention of the news, and it would be years until I truly understood what was going on behind the scenes of the world by the time a broadly recognized scientific instrument or figure “made the news”.
The instrument of the moment was one called the James Webb Space Telescope, and it carried instruments to see further into space than the Hubble Space Telescope, and resolve finer details of planets in solar systems.
The Hubble Space Telescope has an interesting history. It was first designed way back when NASA realized that the Space Shuttle was going to be a more difficult challenge for clearing administrative hurdles without alarming the national security agencies of other countries. The decision to make satellites that orbited Earth made a lot of sense in a post-climax Cold War and the world was ready even before the agencies were. So the design of the telescope was relatively easy, even though the parts might be hard to procure. The scientists perceive this through the lens of the funding agencies and their budgets being cut, so their fear is that their design is obsolete before their money and proper leadership in the field run out, even though they are saying the same thing.
The Hubble Space Telescope is even more legendary. The telescope itself was designed and built in the early 1980s and, for the most part, ready to launch.
The launch caused systematic fears, and so the telescope was stored under a table (…yes) in a facility in upstate New York (no, not the Avengers facility, but the Corning Glasswares Laboratory). Anyway, long story short, eight years later, when the telescope was again given go-ahead to fly, guess what? The telescope was dragged out from under the table, placed on a rocket, taken out of its cargo, stored another four years, and eventually launched in early 1990.
There was storied fury among the NASA scientists because the telescope was launched without even being re-evaluated after eight years under a table and other years being in storage. Nobody ever dragged the lens of the telescope into one of the dozens of availability facilities to ask or confirm the basic questions of instrument design, such as: did we engineer this correctly?
The reason this is storied is because during the eight years of storage under the table, most of which were the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush years, the Department of State and other agencies refused to let scientists in or to the Corning Glasswares Laboratory facilities because of national security.
Needless to say, the scientists were… contemptuous when their beautiful billion dollar baby of twenty years safely reached Orbit and… didn’t work.
Turns out the lens had been misshapen in its original fabrication at Corning.
Lo! What sorrows of brokenhearted scientists could be felt on that day!
And yet! Two years later the NASA agency demonstrated three difficult, historic spacewalks (more professionally called extravehicular activities, or EVAs) from the three Space Shuttles over the course of eighteen months to — in one stroke — miraculously repair the imperfectly engineered Hubble Space Telescope and demonstrably justify the power and the value of the Manned Space Program.
Curious. Very curious.
Especially because the Manned Space Program had been seen as obsolete as early as the mid-1980s, and the Hubble Space Telescope successes reaffirmed its value at just the right time for the United States to conclude leadership of the International Space Station, a new, ambitious program proposed by the then-new President Bill Clinton as a better, peace-driven program with Russia.
None of it is clockwork. And, yet it works out. Curious.
The International Space Station went on to be one of the most successful, and strikingly ambitious, and peace-bringing platforms of space ever constructed by mankind… so far. Space Force, NASA, and commercial space are frontiers.
Which is a long way of saying what you think you need to write may or may not ever be what you need to put yourself on the side of defending or creating, so: do.
Because the truth is genuinely clear and each of us see the world through our own separate eyes. This means there is no reason to hold back your personal truth. What may differ among us is what we found ourselves gravitate towards over the years and why. There is a lot of mystery and romance there.
Makes me happy that I listened to your podcast this morning and these words are how I have related to your describing your fondness and admiration of Rupi Kaur, and her way of reaching within herself and identifying personal experience. It’s taken me a long time to realize to myself that I can write, and what motivations I feel when I want to connect with writing, and why each of us wants to feel these feelings which are so much larger than ourselves. These are exciting times; that much I can say without a momentary hesitation of thought. Most of my thoughts are preoccupied by the adventures ahead….;
PS Much of the content of this letter were further inspired… thoughts I have while doing the dishes… and also by the chapter Open Your Eyes of the book We Are The Weather. Makes me often reflect on what and who and why and how are public science celebrities like Carl Sagan, Greta Thunberg, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, which I referred to numerous times over the last few years in my internal writing (well, especially Carl Sagan and Bill Nye because he was an alum of the same department that I studied space sciences at).