Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Music and Emotions



I don’t think we realize the extent to which we are bombarded daily with messages meant to influence our thoughts and behavior.

When you turn on the radio in the morning while pouring your first cup of coffee, the odds are high that you’ll hear a commercial – someone trying to sell you something. If you hit a talk show, there is an agenda that is intended to influence your thinking.

When you drive to work, billboards, signs on trucks, and even license plates carry messages.

To get away from commercialism, you may switch to music, but music is also designed to affect your mind and emotions. Music in a minor key can make you sad or sentimental. Music with a hard beat can make you want to jump around or dance. Music as a background in a movie will enhance the emotion the film producer wants to elicit. Turn off the sound some time and the crying child won’t produce the level of emotion that the violins will produce when combined with the scene.

If you’re old enough, you may remember the thrill of the “Thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver,” as the Lone Ranger galloped out of your radio to the trumpet call from the William Tell Overture.

For a laugh, turn off the music when you see kids dancing on TV. Back in the late middle ages a neurological disorder caused groups of people to go into a dancing frenzy until they collapsed from exhaustion. It was called, “Saint Vitus Dance.” Basically, they all went nuts and it was contagious. All they were missing was one of today’s moronic rappers pacing around on a wooden wagon while screaming obscenities. Today’s rap is the perfect combination of St. Vitus Dance and Tourette Syndrome. It’s good to know we’ve made such progress in terms of musical sophistication.

Classical music can be a powerful driver of emotions. Tristan und Isolde by the German composer, Richard Wagner, is one of my favorites. I played it many years ago with the San Jose Symphony Orchestra, but it doesn’t have much of a trumpet part and as a trumpet player I sat stoically until the trumpet entrance at the peak of the musical buildup. While the string players were working up a sweat sawing madly with bows spewing resin and broken strings whipping the air, I had to count measures finally adding a handful of trumpet notes to the brass entrance. Despite that, it’s a great piece of music.

Personally I enjoy everything from classical music to jazz, from country western to well-written ballads, but some of what is called “music” today falls far outside the true definition of “music.” I may get into this topic a little more in my next blog. Maybe we can take a look at the songwriting process and what makes a song a hit. Until then…



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blog Break

I have a "love-hate" relationship with my computer and have threatened to blow it away with a 12 gauge shotgun, put it on a raft, lay the mouse by its side, light it on fire, and push it out into the pond at the ranch.  That's what's called a "vikings funeral," but the vikings use a dead guy and his dog on the raft.  I'm too much of a dog lover, so the closest I can get is the computer mouse.

Well, I didn't get the satisfaction of personally killing my computer.  It caught a virus and died of natural causes.  Sorry, but it looks like a couple of weeks without a blog until it's released from ICU or a replacement is up and running.

See ya then.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

'Til the End of Time


Retirement provides more than ample time for contemplation and rumination.  Maybe too much time to wrestle with existential questions for which we’ll never find answers - concepts like “time” itself. 

My buddy Dakota and I walk daily in the woods.  It’s quiet in the forest and provides an ideal environment for mulling over questions of existence, the vastness of the universe, and the insignificance of our tiny planet in that context, among other things.

Creek running through the ranch
  Given our human intellectual limitations, it’s futile to try to use reason to find answers to the many haunting questions that bubble to the surface. But I find that it’s a good exercise for putting my life in perspective.

Let’s look at a couple of things about “time” without considering theological implications, if that’s possible.  Some scientists say that hypothetically the original configuration of the universe may have been a state of infinite density where all mass, energy, space, and time are contained in a single mathematical point with no dimensions.  This, of course, would be prior to the theoretical “Big Bang,” when the universe is said to have sprung into existence. 

In 1929 Edwin Hubble discovered that light from distant galaxies shifts toward the red end of the spectrum. Based on the “Doppler Shift” concept, this means that the universe is expanding.  It indicates that the universe had a beginning.  This notion flies in the face of Bertrand Russell’s assertion that the universe is just “there” and that’s “all there is to it.” Russell was an atheist, so that seems like an easy out.

Part of the Ranch
It’s been said that if this expansion had been different by even one part in a million million, no life would have been possible. 

According to Immanuel Kant a beginning of time is inconceivable.  Just think about it.  It is inconceivable. The obvious question pops up, “What happened before that?”  “Was there anything before that?”

It’s like that with space.  If there’s an end to space, let’s say a brick wall, what’s on the other side of the wall?  You can go nuts thinking about this stuff.

Albert Einstein said that according to the theory of relativity, if mass and motion disappeared from the universe there would no longer be space and time.  So in essence, time began with the creation of the universe; not before it.  This was understood long before Einstein by Philo Judaeus in 10 or 20 B.C. and later by Augustine. It’s not a new concept.  There was no “time” before creation or the big bang or however the whole thing began.

Could our universe be floating in a sea of timelessness?  Is our universe an anomaly?  Does time only pertain to our universe?  Remember, without matter and motion there is no time or space.  Is there anything outside of our universe? 
View from the trail

When you think of the word “Eternity” does that mean an extension of time - that time continues on forever?  I don’t think so.  It may mean that time ceases to exist. 
 
Here’s how I see it.  Picture a lone helium-filled balloon floating high in the air.  Imagine that time, space, matter, and motion only exist inside that balloon. Imagine our entire universe inside that balloon.  Imagine that the vast space outside of that balloon is “timelessness.”  Our universe may be afloat in timelessness.  That’s just a metaphor I use to simplify this concept in my mind.

And if you believe in God, He must exist outside of those parameters; outside of that balloon with full access inside, but unconfined by the space-time continuum in which we are confined. 

Just something to think about the next time you walk in the woods.