Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thoughts on Physics, Zebras and the Recent Presidential Election

Several months ago, Barry became extremely interested in string theory; the idea that the foundational elements of nature are invisible strands of pulsating energy. Barry got our buddy Art Moore involved, and together they threatened to turn Twin Rocks into a scientific laboratory. As part of their probe, Barry purchased a copy of the PBS series, The Elegant Universe.

Needing something to do while I exercise inside on these cold November mornings, I snatched the DVDs from Barry’s office and began watching. The series discusses the search for a formula that unifies Einstein’s general theory of relativity with the properties of quantum mechanics. Having gone through the program a few times, I have recently begun to postulate how the diverse elements of physics, the recent presidential election and Twin Rocks Trading Post are related.

The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States has reminded me of the two zebras standing on the savanna discussing whether they are black on white or white on black. According to Wikipedia, president-elect Obama is the offspring of a Kenyan father and an American mother, and is therefore, essentially half black and half white, or conversely, half white and half black. He is, however, frequently billed as the, “first black president.”

Navajo Rug Weaver Ruby Coggeshell
Navajo Rug Weaver Ruby Coggeshell

This type of racial parsing has stumped me ever since I asked Native American flutist Douglas Spotted Eagle if he is Navajo. His somewhat anxious response was, “How much tribal blood do I need to be considered Navajo?” Holding up his pinky, he asked, “Is one drop enough?” Unfortunately, I did not have an response for him, since the answer seems to vary based upon the people and political interests involved. Neither did I mention to him the Kayenta tribal court decision my attorney friend Amy long ago directed me to. The judge in that case found an individual to be a tribal member based upon little more than his prior sexual relations with a Navajo woman. Since Douglas Spotted Eagle is married to a Navajo, presumably he would qualify under this legal reasoning.

In the almost 20 years I have been at the trading post, Mr. Spotted Eagle’s comments have frequently surfaced. This commonly occurs when I am talking with Navajo rug weavers like Ruby Coggeshell or basket weavers like Lorraine Black.

According to Ruby, her son Kevin, who travels the world in service of the U.S. Navy, is often asked whether he is Asian, Hispanic, Hawaiian or any number of other “tribes”. Ruby always chuckles when she tells the story, and I wonder whether it really matters. Kevin is a nice young man whom I have known since he was just a boy, and that is most important to me. For some reason, I have never considered the shape of his eyes, the tone of his hair and the color of his skin defining factors.

It was Lorraine Black, however, who finally allowed me to unify the seemingly irreconcilable elements of trading post, physics and the president-elect. Lorraine is the epitome of string theory; she is constantly jumping, pulsating and vibrating. Comprised of microscopic particles of energy that are completely unconfined and uncontrollable, Barry and I never know when she will arrive, or what will happen when she turns up.

Navajo Basket Weaver Lorraine Black
Navajo Basket Weaver Lorraine Black

We do not view Lorraine as just Navajo. At the trading post she is an immense bundle of unrestrained fragments of energy that can cause chaos in our order and every once in a while order in our chaos. Laughing, joking, sad, nervous, quiet, happy, unpredictable, that is the essence of Lorraine. To us, she is not just a racial identity, she is . . . Lorraine; the sum of her particles. Searching for the unifying equation, I came upon an ancient and long forgotten formula originally developed by singer Kitty Wells, which goes like this, “Love, love is the answer.”

As it turns out, love, with equal parts of compassion and understanding, is the equation that unifies the people of the trading post and the various and distinct individuals of this nation, including its newly elected president. These are the elements that explain the unification of diverse groups, cultures and beliefs. As the zebras of the savanna ultimately determined, it really does not matter whether they are white on black or black on white, it is their individual character that defines them.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2008 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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