Monday, July 21, 2008

Does Hell freeze over? Or? A scientific hypothesis

Dante Conversing with Farinata degli Uberti by William Blake

The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. It was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well. My thanks to my friend Andrea Tosi for forwarding this to me. It made my day!

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

"First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

"As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

"With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

"This gives two possibilities:

"1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

"2. If Hell is expanding at a faster rate than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

"So which is it?

"If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you", and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

"The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'"


Monday, July 07, 2008

To Mr. & Mr. Joel Katz & Tim Montgomery

Ken McDonald, my dear friend and zen brother, was best man at the wedding of our mutual friends Joel Katz and Tim Montgomery in Toronto. When he told me that he had even given a toast as traditional for such occasions, I asked him what he said. He said that he didn’t write it down or record it, but that it would be easy to recreate as it came from the heart. I can think of no better way to express my happiness for Joel and Tim than to publish Ken’s words and send Joel and Tim our warm regards and best wishes.

“The time has come to state the obvious. This is a great day.

“We have members of the Katz family, in from Washington, New York, and Ottawa. And we have members of the Montgomery family here, from Vancouver, Frankfurt, and Tunisia ... no, wait, that's just where their luggage went. They've come from Vancouver.

“It's a pleasure for me to stand here and tell you about Joel. I've known him for a long time, so I've been going through my library of possible things I could say about him. It's so difficult to choose. So I'll go by his favourite quote, which is "Granny's Rules". If you know them, let's all say together: "Is it TRUE? Is it KIND? Is it NECESSARY?" Well, I suppose two out of three wouldn't be bad.

“First, about truth. I think everyone here has had a significant conversation with Joel. He has a great ability to look for the truth, whether it's personal truth, musical truth, or any kind of truth.

“And about kindness: as you look around here in this beautiful garden, you see Joel and Tim's ability to create a place of beauty. This is a great effort of kindness in which they both are participating: creating their lives together.

“And is it necessary? Well, I never imagined, growing up, that such a ceremony as marriage would be available for people like us, that I'd be standing here today as best man. And now here we are. There are so many places in the world where such a thing is not possible, where gay people are still persecuted.

“But this is not a political event. Today is about family. It's about friends. It's about love. It's really simple. So let us imagine, for now, that what's happening here is just the way the world is, with our hope that it be so. So, here's to family, here's to friends, here's to love, here's to Tim and Joel.”

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Robert McQueen and His Amazing Letters!

This morning I met a man who is a gay man, an actor and a Mormon. By the time I got home, I had to tell him the story of my being entrusted with an extensive collection of letters from Robert McQueen and principally two of his correspondents, Nathan Fein and Tom Youngblood. Just over two years ago, Affirm, an organization of gay, lesbian and bisexual Mormons, accepted the letters as part of their gay and lesbian collection which is housed at the University of Utah. Here is my letter.

Hey guy, Here is an article about Robert from the time when he began his career as editor of The Advocate, highlighting his Mormon roots. I read it this morning and found it very moving. His letters which I donated to Affirm start just about where the article leaves off, and cover the next 10 years or so, the last ones about six months before he died in 1989.

There about 250+ letters in all. They are divided into two parts. The most extensive is the correspondence between Robert and a writer named Nathan Fein who was The Advocate’s point person, editor, and columnist reporting and writing about the AIDS epidemic from the very start, before HIV/AIDS had a name. They show two men really grappling with how to present this information in a responsible way. And they are a real mirror of those times.

The second section of the letters were written to Tom Youngblood, the man who gave me the collection (in a big gray box from the men’s sweater store that used to be in St Francis—yeah really) with instructions to find a home for them and perhaps to make them into a book or, A PLAY. Tom loved the idea of a play. Tom was a gay activist and the most often quoted gay man in Herb Caen’s column. He died from either from AIDS complications or his own hand about 10 days after he handed me the box on the front steps of the Zen Temple where I was living on Hartford Street.
And finally, there are copies poems that Robert wrote when he was on Mission, plus one or two letters to the man who was his companion, his coming out to the man, his confession of love (I don’t have the copy in my hands, so they may not be that dramatic). These are the hardest to read—they are old-fashioned Xeroxes of the originals. They also are probably some of the most interesting when looking for the spiritual roots, and conflict, of this talented man.

I had all of McQueen’s letters to these two correspondents. I tired for several years to find Nathan’s literary executor. I have a suspicion (or can hope) that some one of his friends or family recognized the value of his work, and saved as much of it as they could. Or they may be stored in a sweater box in some closet waiting to be found. Or they may be lost. I have actually met Youngbloods’ literary executor, Dean Alan Jones of Grace Cathedral. I tired to find out who has possession of Tom’s side of correspondence. After a few phone calls and letters back and forth, I felt that perhaps there was something about my request that did not sit well with the Dean and took no further action, or maybe I just dropped the ball. Perhaps a play—or knowledge that Robert’s letters are now part of the gay and lesbian collection at the University of Utah—might peak his interest. We can pray.

I have the entire collection stored in digital copy on my old Power Mac. I scanned them all and then ran an optical character recognition program to create a Word version. It was one hell of a job, but for some reason I knew that I wanted to keep a copy for myself. Affirm accepted the collection with the understanding and their permission that I might use them someday in a play or a book.

Over the course of working with the letters, I discovered something about the reverence that Mormons have for the correspondence of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as other early LDS leaders. I read about very large sums that were paid for any original. I think that there was even a scandal not so many years ago about forgeries that were either bought by the Church or some of its leaders. I have always felt that Robert’s letters were somehow part of that same tradition, the spiritual lives of Mormons that is, and not forgeries. I can attest that those are really the letters of Robert McQueen. And they are pretty amazing in their frankness about every subject they touch on.

I would love to send you off to Utah with something to read, but that might not be in the cards. But you have access to them anytime you want. I may need help in getting the Power Mac powered up, but they are yours.