Monthly Archives: April 2009

The truth and us


There’s no one else just like you.

That’s right – your fingerprints, your DNA, your handwriting, the way you walk, and so on – all this is distinctly original.  Our brains are hardwired to discern the smallest features that distinguish one face from another, so that we never forget a face, even at a distance.

Then again, on another level, there are a lot of people just like you.  Most people, in fact.  Look at the diagram of the bell curve.


In the middle of the curve is the average, also called  the “mean.”  68% of people tend to be clustered closely around the average – within one standard deviation, as it is called.  This is true of anything that is randomly distributed – height, IQ, athletic abilities, some behavioral characteristics, and much more.  Most of what your we think of as unique is, in fact, randomly distributed and subject to a whole set of scientific laws that we’ll never be able to change.  Indeed, the illusory character of uniqueness is captured perfectly by the term standard deviation.

Go out two standard deviations from the mean, and you have accounted for about 96% of all people.  The people who really make things happen lie in the “tails,” two standard deviations or more out from the mean.

The territory of the tails, on both sides, includes the super-geniuses and super-morons, the saints and sociopaths, the superstars and the ne’er-do-well’s.  Each tail has about 2% of the population, which means that about 4% of people are truly unique.  Only one of the tails contains the people that are usefully unique; the other contains the 2% who must be institutionalized or monitored in some important, and usually costly, way.  In a lot of ways, parents playing the odds just might hope their kids are more like everyone else than not.

Think about it this way:  all leopards have spots, and no two leopards have the same spots.  The same goes for zebras and their stripes.  Penguins can distinguish the call of their mate from among thousands of squawking birds in the colony.  But they all look and sound the same to me, and they’re all beautiful, too.

Maybe the same goes for us.  What do the zebras see when they look at a crowd of people?

It’s great to be yourself, an individual, someone with special talents.  But every once in a while, it’s good to celebrate what we are just as much as what I am.


Credits:  Photo of zebras, being all different from each other:

Graphic of normal curve and distribution by


Filed under individuality, life, normal distribution, statistics

The truth and angels


Angel with dark wings

She used to come when I got scared, talk to me a bit
Lay real close and touch my hair, bring me warm milk and tears
Tell me there’s nothing to fear, kiss me, call me Johnny dear
Made me believe

I told her I would be alright, if I could see the end
I was afraid to close my eyes, asked her if it was a dream
Asked if she would come with me, she said, “baby, we’ll see”
When we got better

But in the end, who was helping who?
Who was really blue?
Who needed just to break on through?
Get out of here and fly away?
My angel with dark wings

I tried to find her a gift, I was thinking about her smile
Couldn’t find nothing that fit, something was out of place
Something she could never name but everyone could feel the shame
Settle in the room

And in the end, who was helping who?
Who was really blue?
Who needed just to break through?

Oh, in the end, I couldn’t say good-bye
To her reasons and her rhymes, all the things behind her eyes
My angel with dark wings

There’s a secret that I know, something that we shared
And I’ll never tell a soul, won’t open up my heart
Show the world the blackest parts, where she reached deep and far
And showed me how to live

Oh, in the end, who was helping who?
Who was really blue?
Who needed just to break through?
Get on out of here and fly away?
My angel with dark wings


Credits and story:  About a year ago, I watched a video of a band called Seether.  The song was called “Broken,” and the video featured Amy Lee, of Evanescence, as an angel with charcoal colored wings.  I was hit by the image and picked up my guitar.  I turned the sound off and started to play some chords and just put words in the air.  Soon enough, a few lines became a verse, and then an image popped into my mind:  the story James Frye told in the book, My Friend Leonard, about Lilly, the woman he fell in love with while in rehab.  The story affected me deeply, and watching Amy Lee in those charcoal wings brought it back to me vividly.  From that moment on, the song wrote itself.

All the pictures in the video are photos I have captured over the last several years in my neighborhood and world.  I put them together to tell a sort of story.


Filed under Amy Lee, death, freedom, James Frey, love, Seether

Truth and sleeping dogs


Truth is a sleeping dog.

Truth is in the details.

Truth is a black-light poster in the valley of darkness.

Truth is a symptom of consciousness.

Truth is fear itself.

Truth is the ballad of Echo and Narcissus.

Truth is the other shoe.

Truth is the uncertainty principle.

Truth is a mirage.

Truth is other people.

Truth is superposition.

Truth is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Truth is an oasis.

Truth is a fetish.

Truth is just another word for nothing left to do.

Truth is anisotropic.

Truth is a sandcastle.

Truth is absolutely necessary without necessarily being absolute.

Truth is the essence of dissolve.

Truth has fallen in the forest.

Let the truth lie.


In memoriam: Duke, 1999 – April 5, 2009.  He was a really good dog.




Filed under Duke, existentialism, superposition