Even in absurdity, sacrament. Even in hardship, holiness. Even in doubt, faith. Even in chaos, realization. Even in paradox, blessedness
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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage." ~Anain Nin
Viddy Thursday: Experimental Film
"Gimme the Mermaid" (Negativland)
Viddy Thursday: Experimental Film
Viddy Thursday: Experimental Film
Spiritual Starvation - A Meditation
And it's ironic, isn't it? Americans proclaim in large number, we are religious, we go to our houses of worship, we are true believers in this or that God. Religion is touted constantly in the media and in the talk of our neighbors.
But I don't think spiritual poverty has anything to do with religion, paradoxical as that may seem. I think it has much to do with human connection, with the sense one gets when one can be part of something larger than oneself, in fellowship with others. Where sacrifice is voluntary in the service of those very invisible treasures that nourish our spirit.
For after all, what is democracy? Can you touch it, buy it at a shopping mall, smell it like a flower? Can you paint it like a landscape, see it like a sunrise? Where does it exist if not in our spirits and our hearts? What is freedom? Is it visible to the naked eye? Is it something one can grasp with one's open hand? What is love, respect, honor, justice? Can they be purchased on the stock market? Can they be manufactured by industry? We put great stock in these invisible things, but how do they come about, and how do we gain common language to make them come about?
I think that whether Americans realize it or not, we are all starving. We are starving for something more than material gain, even more than the safety and happiness of our families and loved ones. That alone cannot be enough to nourish our spirit. We have a human connection with each and every person in this whole world; we are all made of the same stuff, we are all affected by what happens to each one of us.
This problem preceded the Bush Administration, but has been made far more severe during its reign. Modern life has always been a trade-off, convenience and material gain at the expense of spiritual growth. The Industrial Revolution was a marvelous thing and spared much of humankind the backbreaking labor which led to early death and miserable existence. But it also created the factory environment where humanity became part of a giant machine, ripped from the land, divorced from our bonds with nature.
In each generation of Americans there have been visionaries who have inspired us to overcome our own material greed, who have reminded us of those invisible fruits that are necessary for our psychological and spiritual survival. Our Founding Fathers were of that breed. They saw that liberty and self-rule, never before seen on this earth, were as essential to a healthy human psyche as food and drink were to a healthy human body. Later we had those who showed us that as long as one of our number were enslaved, none of us were free. And that as long as some were hungry and cold, we could not be happy in our satiety and warmth.
Muslims unfairly stigmatised, says the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has warned against portraying Islam as a religion of violence, saying Muslims have been wrongly demonised in the West since the September 11 attacks.
Promoting religious tolerance, the world’s most influential Buddhist leader said on Sunday that talk of "a clash of civilisations between the West and Muslim world is wrong and dangerous."
Muslim terrorist attacks have distorted people’s views of Islam, making them believe it is an extremist faith rather than one based on compassion, the Dalai Lama told a press conference in the Indian capital.
Muslims are being unfairly stigmatised as a result of violence by "some mischievous people," said the Dalai Lama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work to bring democracy and freedom to his people.
All religions have extremists and "it is wrong to generalise (about Muslims)," the 71-year-old spiritual leader said.
"They (terrorists) cannot represent the whole system," he said.
Striking new bird discovered in South America
A brightly coloured bird has been discovered on a remote mountain range in South America. The previously unknown species, the Yariguies Brush Finch, has striking black, yellow and red plumage.
A British expert co-led the team which made the find during the first biological expedition to the Yariguies mountains in northern Colombia.
Ms Blanca Huertas, a curator at the Natural History Museum in London, said: "The description of a new bird is a rare event in modern times."
The bird, which has the Latin name Atlapetes latinuchus yariguierum, differs from its closest relatives by having a black back and no white markings on its wings.
Thomas Donegan, from the Colombian bird conservation organisation Fundacion ProAves, said: "Before we began this study, no-one knew what species lived in the Yariguies mountains and whether they needed protecting.
"Now, we are beginning to describe new taxa (types) and a national park was established in the region. It is surprising that this new brush finch and the forests of the Yariguies mountains could remain unstudied, undescribed and unprotected for so long."
Origin of species mostly in the tropics
The tropics may be the cradle of much of the world's biodiversity, and where most species arise before they spread elsewhere, according to a new study.
Palaeontologists and biologists at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago showed that three-quarters of a large group of marine animals - including oysters, clams and other molluscs - first appeared in the tropics and later moved toward the poles.
Only the remaining quarter of this group emerged at higher latitudes, according to the scientists, whose study appears in the latest issue of the U.S. journal, Science.
James Valentine, biology professor at Berkeley and one of the co-authors of the study, said plants and other animal species probably originated in large part in the tropics.
Between 23.5 degrees latitude north and 23.5 degrees south of the equator, all land and waters of the tropics receive perpendicular sunlight at noon at lease once during the year. The warmer tropics are about 10 times as biodiverse as are the arctic regions, the researchers said.
Beauty is in the Processing-Time of the Beholder
In the late 1870s, scientist and eugenicist Sir Francis Galton developed an image of the prototypical "face of crime" by creating composite photos of men convicted of serious offenses.
Though Galton failed to discover anything abnormal in his composite criminal faces, he did find that the resulting visages were shockingly handsome... Studies have since established that people find prototypical faces—those with average features—to be attractive. A paper published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science proposes a new explanation for this phenomenon: Prototypical faces are pleasing because they're easy for the brain to process.
"There is always this question in psychology or in experimental aesthetics: Is there some sort of psychological principle that can explain a lot of what people find attractive, not only in terms of faces or people, but things in general?" said Piotr Winkielman, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego and the study's lead author. "This idea of ease-of-processing seems like a good candidate."
Experience, as a desire for experience, does not come off. We must not study ourselves while having an experience.
Scientists discover 'shadow person'
Ever feel as though you're being followed? As if someone is behind you, shadowing your every move? It might be your ‘shadow person', created by unusual activity in a specific brain region, a new study shows.
The paper, published in the British journal Nature, describes the case of a 22-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric problems who was being evaluated for treatment of epilepsy. When a region of her brain called the left temporoparietal junction was electrically stimulated, the woman described encounters with a ‘shadow person' who mimicked her bodily movements.
"Electrical stimulation repeatedly produced a feeling of the presence of another person in her extra-personal space," said Olaf Blanke, co-author of the study conducted by a team of researchers from University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland.
When the patient was lying down, stimulation of this brain region caused her to feel that someone was behind her. She described the person as young, of indeterminate sex, "a shadow who did not speak or move, and whose position beneath her back was identical to her own", according to the researchers.
When the patient sat up, leaned forward and clasped her knees, she felt that the figure was also sitting, embracing her in its arms - a feeling she described as "unpleasant".
Galaxy May Have Billions of Planets
NASA scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered what they believe are 16 new planets deep in the Milky Way, leading them to conclude there are probably billions of planets spread throughout the galaxy.
Over the past 15 years, astronomers have identified more than 200 planets outside our solar system, but the new ones identified by the Hubble are at least 10 times as far from Earth.
That planets can be found at the center of the galaxy, as well as near our solar system, has given NASA researchers confidence that they are likely to be everywhere. If that is the case, then the likelihood of other Earth-like planets becomes greater.
"We all are dreamers, and part of that dream is to find life somewhere," said Mario Livio, head of the science program at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which oversees Hubble operations. "We're finding that the galaxy is full of planets, and the chances are, somewhere out there, we will find one with the conditions necessary to be habitable."
The new planets were introduced yesterday as mostly "candidates," since only two could be definitively described as planets. But Livio and team leader Kailash Sahu said the chances are good that some, or even all, of the 16 will ultimately meet all the criteria to be called planets.
First Teleportation Between Light and Matter
At long last researchers have teleported the information stored in a beam of light into a cloud of atoms, which is about as close to getting beamed up by Scotty as we're likely to come in the foreseeable future. More practically, the demonstration is key to eventually harnessing quantum effects for hyperpowerful computing or ultrasecure encryption systems.
Quantum computers or cryptography networks would take advantage of entanglement, in which two distant particles share a complementary quantum state. In some conceptions of these devices, quantum states that act as units of information would have to be transferred from one group of atoms to another in the form of light. Because measuring any quantum state destroys it, that information cannot simply be measured and copied. Researchers have long known that this obstacle can be finessed by a process called teleportation, but they had only demonstrated this method between light beams or between atoms.
My life in random, internet comic
Bogged with school, et cetera. Please play outside on my behalf.
Viddy Thursday: Zikr
Viddy Thursday: Rumi
Viddy Thursday: Rumi
Welcome to the Underworld
The Antrum of the Sibyl is a long, straight tunnel, with side chambers. At the end, there is a cave on the left hand side, where the Sibyl made her prophecies. It was apparently here that Apollo took possession of her, resulting in her ranting and raving, but equally able to see the future. Virgil worded it as such: “the Sibyl sang her fearful riddling prophecies, her voice booming in the cave as she wrapped the truth in darkness, while Apollo shook the reins upon her in her frenzy and dug the spurs into her flanks. The madness passed.”
For the last 40 years, medical science has operated on the understanding that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in just about everything the mind does, thinks or feels. The theory is appealingly simple: sadness is simply a shortage of chemical happiness. The typical antidepressant—like Prozac or Zoloft—works by increasing the brain’s access to serotonin. If depression is a hunger for neurotransmitter, then these little pills fill us up.
Unfortunately, the serotonergic hypothesis is mostly wrong. After all, within hours of swallowing an antidepressant, the brain is flushed with excess serotonin. Yet nothing happens; the patient is no less depressed. Weeks pass drearily by. Finally, after a month or two of this agony, the torpor begins to lift.
But why the delay? If depression is simply a lack of serotonin, shouldn’t the effect of antidepressants be immediate? The paradox of the Prozac lag has been the guiding question of Dr. Ronald Duman’s career. Duman likes to talk with his feet propped up on his desk. He speaks with the quiet confidence of someone whose ideas once seemed far-fetched but are finally being confirmed.
“Even as a graduate student,” Duman says, “I was fascinated by how antidepressants work. I always thought that if I can just figure out their mechanism of action—and identify why there is this time-delay in their effect—then I will have had a productive career.”
When Duman began studying the molecular basis of antidepressants back in the early 90s, the first thing he realized was that the serotonin hypothesis made no sense. A competing theory, which was supposed to explain the Prozaz lag, was that antidepressants increase the number of serotonin receptors. However, that theory was also disproved. “It quickly became clear that serotonin wasn’t the whole story,” Duman says. “Our working hypothesis at the time just wasn’t right.”
One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100
Drought threatening the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the Earth in the coming century because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain's leading climate scientists.
Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.
It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists involved said yesterday.
The findings, released at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth, drew astonished and dismayed reactions from aid agencies and development specialists, who fear that the poor of developing countries will be worst hit.
"This is genuinely terrifying," said Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid. "It is a death sentence for many millions of people. It will mean migration off the land at levels we have not seen before, and at levels poor countries cannot cope with."
One of Britain's leading experts on the effects of climate change on the developing countries, Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation, said: "There's almost no aspect of life in the developing countries that these predictions don't undermine - the ability to grow food, the ability to have a safe sanitation system, the availability of water. For hundreds of millions of people for whom getting through the day is already a struggle, this is going to push them over the precipice."
The findings represent the first time that the threat of increased drought from climate change has been quantified with a supercomputer climate model such as the one operated by the Hadley Centre.
Their impact is likely to even greater because the findings may be an underestimate. The study did not include potential effects on drought from global-warming-induced changes to the Earth's carbon cycle.
In one unpublished Met Office study, when the carbon cycle effects are included, future drought is even worse.
Ethics on the Brain
Imagine two scenarios. In the first, you are driving down the street and are suddenly overcome by a fit of sneezing. You veer off to the right, and by the time you come to a stop, you realize, to your horror, that you have hit a young woman walking on the sidewalk. She is pinned against a brick wall and, despite emergency treatment, will be paralyzed below the waist for life.
In the second scenario, you are driving a pickup truck on a fine summer morning when you suddenly notice a bee buzzing around inside. You are frightened because you think you might be allergic to bee stings, and while trying to kill the bee with a handy newspaper, you swerve into oncoming traffic, hitting a small car head-on. The driver, a young father of two, is killed.
Are you morally responsible in either of these cases (both of which actually occurred), and should you be held legally responsible? In each case, you can honestly say you didn’t mean to cause harm, and it makes a difference that there was neither conscious nor unconscious intent. Still, could you have foreseen the potential consequences of your distraction? We expect people to exercise self-control. We all know that it is difficult but not impossible to stifle a sneeze; you might do so in a classroom, for instance. We could argue that we have even more control over how we respond to our fears than we do to our impulses. Shouldn’t we be expected, then, to not allow ourselves to be distracted by fear of a bee sting when engaged in something as risky as driving?
We could imagine a spectrum of situations in which the degrees of self-control and personal responsibility would be up for debate. Consider one final scenario: In a fit of anger, a man hits his girlfriend’s young daughter for accidentally spilling a drink on him. He is arrested, but while in jail awaiting trial, doctors discover he has a tumor in a brain region linked to emotional behavior. The tumor is surgically removed, and the man’s angry outbursts diminish. At his trial, the judge declares that the insanity defense was created for this type of situation, and the man is released. Did the judge do the right thing? Should we make allowances when there is evidence that biological factors have led a person to act in a particular way?
Robert Anton Wilson Needs Our Help
Rushkoff: I hope people I've inspired with my work would band together to help me out in my later years if I needed it. Which is at least part of the reason why I'm sending what I can to support cosmic thinking patriarch Robert Anton Wilson, whose infirmity and depleted finances have put him in the precarious position of not being able to meet next month's rent.
I ponied up, fnord, and was indeed a bit misty eyed.
Hot for the end times: The End of the World As They Know It
T he week of September 11 (two weeks ago, not five years), I noticed a poster up at Frankies, my sweet neighborhood trattoria in Brooklyn: It advertised a talk on 9/11 by Daniel Pinchbeck—the former downtown literary impresario who has become a Gen-X Carlos Castaneda and New Age impresario. My breakfast pal nodded at the poster and said, “The guy is selling his apocalypse thing hard.”
“Apocalypse thing?” I knew of Pinchbeck’s psychedelic enthusiasms, but I’d somehow missed his new book about the imminent epochal meltdown. In 2012, he interprets ancient Mayan prophecies to mean “our current socioeconomic system will suffer a drastic and irrevocable collapse” the year after next, and that in 2012, life as we know it will pretty much end. “We have to fix this situation right fucking now,” he said recently, “or there’s going to be nuclear wars and mass death … There’s not going to be a United States in five years, okay?”
The same day at lunch in Times Square, another friend happened to mention that he was thinking of buying a second country house—in Nova Scotia, as “a climate-change end-days hedge.” He smirked, but he was not joking.
On the subway home, I read the essay in the new Vanity Fair by the historian Niall Ferguson arguing that Europe and America in 2006 look disconcertingly like the Roman Empire of about 406—that is, the beginning of the end. That night, I began The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s new novel set in a transcendently bleak, apparently post-nuclear-war-ravaged America of the near future. And a day or so later watched the online trailer for Mel Gibson’s December movie, Apocalypto, set in the fifteenth-century twilight of, yes, the Mayan civilization.
So: Five years after Islamic apocalyptists turned the World Trade Center to fire and dust, we chatter more than ever about the clash of civilizations, fight a war prompted by our panic over (nonexistent) nuclear and biological weapons, hear it coolly asserted this past summer that World War III has begun, and wonder if an avian-flu pandemic poses more of a personal risk than climate change. In other words, apocalypse is on our minds. Apocalypse is … hot.
Millions of people—Christian millenarians, jihadists, psychedelicized Burning Men—are straight-out wishful about The End. Of course, we have the loons with us always; their sulfurous scent if not the scale of the present fanaticism is familiar from the last third of the last century—the Weathermen and Jim Jones and the Branch Davidians. But there seem to be more of them now by orders of magnitude (60-odd million “Left Behind” novels have been sold), and they’re out of the closet, networked, reaffirming their fantasies, proselytizing. Some thousands of Muslims are working seriously to provoke the blessed Armageddon. And the Christian Rapturists’ support of a militant Israel isn’t driven mainly by principled devotion to an outpost of Western democracy but by their fervent wish to see crazy biblical fantasies realized ASAP—that is, the persecution of the Jews by the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon.
When apocalypse preoccupations leach into less-fantastical thought and conversation, it becomes still more disconcerting. Even among people sincerely fearful of climate change or a nuclearized Iran enacting a “second Holocaust” by attacking Israel, one sometimes detects a frisson of smug or hysterical pleasure.
Hastert knew there was a lizard in the lockerroom, did nothing.
Jeez, what a weekend. What a perfect shitstorm for the knuckledraggers:
Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, said he told Speaker Dennis Hastert after learning a fellow GOP lawmaker sent inappropriate messages to a teenage boy.
Stormy Weather: Woodward Exposes Gloom
With the midterm elections only five weeks away, Bush and his political minions have been striving mightily to direct the attention of voters away from Iraq and toward the threat of a terrorist attack. But Iraq keeps coming back into the headlines. Before the Woodward book began landing in stores late last week, portions of a National Intelligence Estimate began leaking out, suggesting that the war in Iraq was undermining the war on terror. The leaked portions of the NIE, a document representing a consensus of the U.S. intelligence community, disclosed the somewhat unsurprising conclusion that Iraq was turning into a training ground for terrorists. Bush responded by authorizing the declassification of other portions of the NIE, suggesting that if American forces were to quit Iraq, the problem would only grow worse. But simply "staying the course" in Iraq may not satisfy American voters who can see only darkness at the end of the tunnel.
9/11 Panel Members Weren’t Told of Meeting
Members of the Sept. 11 commission said today that they were alarmed that they were told nothing about a White House meeting in July 2001 at which George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, is reported to have warned Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, about an imminent Al Qaeda attack and failed to persuade her to take action.
Details of the previously undisclosed meeting on July 10, 2001, two months before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, were first reported last week in a new book by the journalist Bob Woodward.
The final report from the Sept. 11 commission made no mention of the meeting nor did it suggest there had been such an encounter between Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice, now secretary of state.
Pale Blue Coincidences
In these past few days
The sun, so white and incessant,
People can talk so easily of distance
To be captive, here, on this pale blue dot,
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Ten Considerations for Being Well n this Goofy Universe
0. If you find yourself
wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor. 1. Always be of service to
the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being
of service to your becoming Whole. 2. You will be called upon
to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never
turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in
their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night
that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to
share . 3. The rewards of being
true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met
with nothing. 4. You’ll also see that
knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own
struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but
yours is the power to choose it. 5. You’ll find that some of
your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s
okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them
I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I
tried it on. 6. Your growth will be a
mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you
strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing
minutes. Don’t count on second chances. 7. In those times when
everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t
forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are
a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle
to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re
having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic
flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that
there’s a little of each one hidden in both. 8. Respond as best as you
can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any
situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF,
leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in. 9. Whatever you’re doing,
celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got
when you’re done. Magic lives in the action. 9 ½ . All matter is energy.
All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short
time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came.
Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy
that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a
sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore,
why be bored? 9 3/4 . Choosing to live in
the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling
obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to
continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there
with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences. 10. The Universe itself it
not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered ,
butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So,
whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as
best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy,
unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.
0. If you find yourself wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor.
1. Always be of service to the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being of service to your becoming Whole.
2. You will be called upon to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to share .
3. The rewards of being true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met with nothing.
4. You’ll also see that knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but yours is the power to choose it.
5. You’ll find that some of your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I tried it on.
6. Your growth will be a mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing minutes. Don’t count on second chances.
7. In those times when everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that there’s a little of each one hidden in both.
8. Respond as best as you can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF, leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in.
9. Whatever you’re doing, celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got when you’re done. Magic lives in the action.
9 ½ . All matter is energy. All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came. Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore, why be bored?
9 3/4 . Choosing to live in the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences.
10. The Universe itself it not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered , butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So, whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy, unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.