I wander a bit from the theme of simplicity but I bring it back to prayer, the basis for simplicity. I’m processing my grandfather’s death and the last few conversations I had with him had to make their way into a post. In a nod to him, I’ve written in a scientific style which I always adopted when writing to him because I know how much he appreciated precise, exact terms — he wouldn’t put up with much else. I was never quite as adept at it — often spinning into poetic, mythical language — but I did my best … and he humored me … somewhat.

While I was in New York, I heard the sad news that my grandfather died. Five months earlier, he carried the ashes of my grandmother to the fireplace mantel and continued the arduous grieving of life without his love, partner, and friend of over 65 years. Photo: Picture taken in the 1950's Wes & Dottie BjurPhoto

He met life without her bravely, but the pain was obviously present and poignant, a poor substitute for the lively sass my grandmother always brought wherever she was. After surviving an aneurism, surgery, and a lung infection he told his kids he was ready to go…

This last Christmas, without my grandmother to do the shopping (which she usually did with relish) he took it upon himself to do the Christmas shopping alone. One of the last gifts my grandfather gave to my family was a subscription to Scientific American. Soon after hearing he was gone, I received another issue in my mailbox. I smiled, cried a little and thumbed through its pages.

Wes Bjur was a missionary and a pastor. He was also a professor of political science and author with a probing, studious mind. The years after retirement make up the large part of my experience with him, the days in which he spent most of his time in his study reading, writing and corresponding. My letters from college were always given wonderfully long replies. I loved to engage him in philosophical discussions because he was one of the few people who had the patience for it and gave me “beef and beer” instead of candy-puffed answers from self-help books and shoddy sermons (often interchangeable).

Here is an excerpt from an answer written by Grandpa to one of my philosophical questions:

Regarding your biography of Einstein, I happen to be reading an article in the current Scientific American (March 2009) that sounds like the same material you are hearing in the biographical material. The Scientific American authors “work” the theme that the unpredictability of atomic “spins” plus the apparent refutation of the “locality” rules of relativity theory are serious threats to Einstein’s relativity theories. “Quantum weirdness defies special relativity is one of the subtitles of articles presented….A bigger picture is implied in the SciAm article — that our three (or four) dimensional understanding of the physical world and the cosmos in general is seriously limited. Some are suggesting that until other, multidimensional models are developed and accepted, there will be no way to understand/explain the “non-locality” phenomena they are exploring — i.e, that a change in a proton’s spin can instantaneously affect the spin of a paired but distant proton. It is here that Einstein’s special relativity covering laws of causality is being questioned.

Sometimes, he sent something fun, like this:

If you can read this, you have a strong mind:

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Always, he replied. I could count on him for that. I could write to him about anything and I would get a serious, thoughtful answer. He introduced me to the concepts of existentialism, philosophy vs. science, Descartes and Kant, Jung, theories of happiness and living a meaningful life.

The last few conversations I had with him, he shared what he was reading. It was a subject we were both interested in. He read two histories of cancer, the long-time enemy of my vibrant, vivid grandmother. She fought the monster for half her life, winning battle after battle — the triumphant victor more than once. But in the end, he lost her to it. It was so like him to delve into “understanding” this enemy, understanding being one of his favorite past times.

He also explained excitedly about the work of Rupert Sheldrake, mentioning “morphic resonances” or “morphic fields”. I, with my fantasy-minded/sci-fi brain, goaded him on because I was combing his ideas for possible adventures for my main character in my novel. Sheldrake has broken from popular science by stepping away from the controlled atmosphere of the lab and admitted the realm of wide human experience into his scientific theories. He’s written several books with interesting titles such as Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and The Sense of Being Stared At. Being of a less scientific mind than my grandfather, but more mathematical and philosophical, I thought it more up my alley than his, so it surprised me. I thought it strange to find my grandfather turning to what some scientists considered pseudoscience or even paranormal interests. He rarely allowed the often vague, loose talk of theology around the subject of science. Here is a response to when I brought up the idea of God and free will relating to atomic protons affecting distant, unrelated protons.

One more time, I don’t think “free will” associated with atomic decay has any useful implications for the idea of  “free will’ as used by theologians. Let me say one more thing: your grandpa thinks that the “debate” between creationism and evolution is a foolish waste of time. Evolution is not an attack on religion except in the minds of folks who really don’t understand the ideas of natural mutations to survive in changed contexts that have been occurring since the birth of living matter.

PhotoOf course, Grandpa, I get it, (but the idea is extremely interesting to play with in a literary setting!) I also wanted to remind him how myth precedes us and guides us into new realms. How I loved conversations with him! So, I’m fascinated with this new subject of his and I’m planning on taking the baton. Perhaps he sensed what was about to happen to his body and his “morphic field” included little ol’ me trying to make sense of a plot twist in my novel. It would be like him to give me the next step by directing me to a scientist.

I said I would bring this back to prayer. I will in a Wes Bjur-ish sort of way. Read the link: http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&Papers/papers/morphic/prayer.html.