Saturday, September 29, 2007

roach science

Do you ever feel deep frustration when in the morning, as you arrive to work, you start feeling completely lost, unable to concentrate even on simplest tasks, and generally completely out of sorts? However, once you arrive home after the tedious work day, all over sudden everything seems to fall into places: your memory becomes sharper than cheddar (oh, if only your boss could see you now), your reaction becomes like that of a rattle snake (but please don't forget to wipe that drool streak off your chin), and your IQ increases by 100%, almost dipping into triple digits. Annoying, isn't it? Well, do not feel perturbed or left out, as you are not alone in feeling this way. So do roaches. As it turns out, studies performed at a Cocroach University of TN (actually called Vanderbilt University, but CU has a better ring to it), showed that roaches are just not morning individuals. Apparently, a roach IQ, which on a scale of IQ's sits between that of a mealworm and a member of, is lower in the morning than in the afternoon. Series of intense 2 year long research studies that involved sugar water with peppermint shone light onto cocroach learning patterns, something that we previously could only spend sleepless nights pondering on. One still must have some questions about this research, however. What did the research lab look like? Did it have rows and rows of antique oak bookshelves filled with works of Proust, Kant, and Shakespeare? Did the roaches sit in roomy armchairs in the light of green table lamps while smoking Cubans, pondering on questions of existentialism, and sipping on peppermint water? Did the scientists who perform this research develop an obsession with all things roach, purchasing cocroach related memorabilia such as Elvis-the King of Roach and Roll figurines and posters of Papa Roach? Would would Cornelius Vanderbilt have said if he knew that his name would be forever associated with roaches? And finally, where do I apply for a job like this and who is the lucky guy who gets to spend his time around those wonderful creatures? Move over Marie Curie and Al Einstein, because here comes Terry Page, the man behind the roach. He is the who discovered the wonders of a cocroach mind and the ways our six legged friends learn. He was the one to find that hidden link between a bizarre morning learning deficiency and the fact that roaches were resisting to be trained to drink the peppermint water at that time of day. Finally, he is the one to claim that a roach is the key to the human mind (I bet all the hippy readers would agree with that statement). So maybe next time you raise your rolled up newspaper in attempts to eliminate that pesky creature and flush his lifeless partially flattened body into the toilet, you will think of that unspoken connection and let him go enjoy his peppermint water because chances are, he is as frustrated as you are.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Have you ever seen a sand clock? Have you flipped it over and observed those tiny grains of sand all over sudden come rushing through the funnel, one just like the other, hurrying to get to the narrow part, pushing and shoving while being concentrated in a tight spot, just to fall through and join its counterparts all the way at the bottom?

For hundreds of thousands of years, since the beginning of humanity, we have been going through a gigantic sand clock of life, starting all the way in a top chamber the moment we are born and making our way down every second without stopping. Unlike the sand clock, however, we do not get to start all over again once we reach the bottom and the clock is turned upside down to repeat the process.

This is where this analogy ends and the reality of our existence begins. Since the beginning of human experience we have been trying to find the explanation for our presence and the reasons for overcoming the struggles that life throws in our face. Do we ponder on those things out of curiosity? Or out of a sense of desperation that arises at the thought that, as we try to find our niche from the day we are born through internal and external struggles and as we eagerly aim to get our spot under the sun, once we get too close to the latter, we go down in Icarus like manner, leaving only drops of wax and feathers as the reminders of what we once were.

Is it out of desperation that comes from a thought that just when we think that our lives are finally stabilized after getting that job we wanted, meeting that person we dreamed
of, and putting check marks on our to do lists, all over sudden we realize that no matter how smooth our train ride of life is, eventually it will come to a halt. And even more unsettling is the realization of the fact that we don't know how many stops there will be, or when exactly this ride will be over, or if something will cause our train to derail before it ever reaches its destination.

But what IS the destination? Is there a mysterious light in the end of that tunnel that we should be looking forward to? How do we know what will happen after the train stops? This is where the concept of faith comes in. Whether triggered by spiritual earning, brainwashing, or just out of unwillingness to think that all our struggles will end in us making a great party appetizer for a group of nightcrawlers, faith is what makes us think that those struggles were worthwhile and our efforts will be paid off in the end.

It is something that, even when certain obstacles in our lives give us unbearable feelings of burden and unhappiness, makes us feel like no matter how long it will take to overcome them and how hard the road will be, eventually we will see that bright light that will guide us out of the darkness into the light. It is the idea that carrying our cross with dignity will be reimbursed by getting into a much better place where there is only good and there is no place for mental anguish and torment.

Although getting to this place is possible through virtue and goodness, another prerequisite is following the road all the way to the end. There are no shortcuts, and the ones that succumb to doubt and decide to make their way shorter will never see the redeeming light that will lead them to greatness. Finding that light, however, is not the only reason for us to have faith.

Sometimes even the most skeptical of us start questioning themselves when it comes to personal trauma and human tragedy. Trauma like the death of our loved ones. The idea of hearing the silence of an empty room where their voices once filled the air, the sight of an unindented pillow in the morning, or the process of looking at a picture and knowing that they can't look back at us is really damaging to our perception and wellbeing.

When those situations arise, it hits home, we take our guard down and start thinking of "what if" Besides these reasons, there are also concerns about them being in a better place rather than six feet under, getting treatment they deserved after making us happy with their presence. Faith is often synonymous with hope, and since hope is what our entire lives, with dreams and goals, are based upon, we also hope that some day our deeds will be rewarded with finding the ones we lost in that better place they have already discovered.

Faith can be a great motivator and comforter. It is what carried people through devastation and disease, through wars and destruction. Even if everything else is gone, faith is a loyal friend stay always stays by your side no matter how bad things are.

It is what was in a heart of a person whose body was ravaged by plague and laid out to slowly getting eaten by disease. It is what was in a heart of a woman that was tied to a stake, feeling the flames licking her skin. It is what was in a heart of a person that was carried away to a certain death at a camp. It is something that is in a heart of a terminally ill child, a hostage victim, a firefighter that rushes into a building engulfed in flames, a surgeon that holds a scalpel and a human life in his hands, or a mother that is sending her child into a battle.

While knowledge is the most powerful thing and a lot of frustrations come from not having it in regards to what the future may hold for us, faith is the next closest thing that we have and that gives us comfort. Just like a hypothesis does not become a theorem until it is proven, but is plausible enough to manipulate, faith is good enough for us to guide us down the road that may or may not lead us to our destination.