Meditation for Thursday of Week 22 in the season of Growth

Physical Systems

I arise early in the morning to work on this project. For a few hours, I am at my peak. Then, after a few hours thinking about the subject matter of these pages, my mind is no longer as fresh as it was earlier in the day. My organic brain provides me with the tools to compose this work but it also limits me by growing weary.

So I go outside to refresh myself with a little gardening. After a few hours of weeding or shoveling, my back hurts, and that is on a good day. Of course, I am among the lucky ones.

You get the idea.


True Narratives

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking became afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of twenty-one but went on to author numerous scientific publications and make groundbreaking contributions to theoretical physics. Commenting on his disability, he writes:

I had been very bored with life. There had not seemed to be anything worth doing. But shortly after I came out of hospital, I dreamt that I was going to be executed. I suddenly realised that there were a lot of worthwhile things I could do if I were reprieved. Another dream, that I had several times, was that I would sacrifice my life to save others. After all, if I were going to die anyway, it might as well do some good. But I didn't die. In fact, although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before.

Biographies on Stephen Hawking:

Video presentations:

I include books by Dr. Hawking under the heading of true narratives because they illustrate the ability of this exceptional man to do great work despite physical limitations.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks has popularized recent work in the neurosciences about how the brain processes information to form the mind and how organic limitations can prevent normal functioning. He has also written an autobiography: Oliver Sacks, Uncle TungstenMemories of a Chemical Boyhood (Knopf, 2001).

Works on how organic brain abnormalities can affect personality, perception and behavior:

Here are first-person narratives from people with organic brain disorders:

More general narratives on the subject:

On other physical systems:

Technical and Analytical Readings


Film and Stage

Fictional Narratives

Knowing that she was beautiful, she was thoroughly conscious, though in an indistinct fashion, that she possessed a weapon. Women play with their beauty as children do with a knife. They wound themselves. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume IV – Saint-Denis; Book Third – The House in the Rue Plumet, Chapter VI, The Battle Begun.]

 . . . his whole person was a grimace. A huge head, bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,—strange exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as beauty shall be the result of harmony. Such was the pope whom the fools had just chosen for themselves. [Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, or, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Volume I, Book First, Chapter V, Quasimodo.]


Music: Composers, artists, and major works



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