I live a life of duty now,
but I’ve been fierce and free.
The proof is stored behind my brow
as neon memory.
It has been a while since I posted a progress report, and much has happened in the meantime.
It isn’t that I have a lot of time or focus to do writing, really. I’d like to do one or several of these high intensity writing days where I work myself into a writing frenzy and do nothing but compose stanzas for like ten hours straight. (Usually about ten to twenty stanzas come out of that and about half of those survive editing.) I haven’t been able to do one of those for over a year now. But fortunately there is another process that produces stanzas, which I call receiving uploads.
What utterly amazed me was their response! One of them is James Cook, who is not just a software developer and a composer of music, but actually develops software to help compose music. How cool is that! He took a liking to this little tune and produced a hymn-style arrangement for four voices which… I’m frankly unqualified to judge, but my dad as a classically trained composer assures me it is quite good. Here’s what it looks like: Continue reading →
You’ve clearly grown tonight, my child.
You watch more knowingly.
Your movements are a touch more mild
as you examine me.
Whenever I’m not working, I continue to be mostly busy being a dad. It is amazing! My writing has slowed down considerably for now and I’m fine with that.
Still, there is a little progress to report. The fourth Sermon has a rough outline, a couple of finished stanzas that mark important waypoints in the storyline, and a working title: The Heartbeat of Humanity. At the current leisurely pace, I expect to finish it next summer, two years after the last one. Continue reading →
The song I previously mentioned is complete. The music was graciously contributed by my dad, who is awesome and composes classical music. “Children of the Milky Way” is now proper sheet music, with a sheet and everything. Check it out:
I’m done with the recordings! Hooray! This took way longer than I wanted it to, but that’s the reality of having to scratch together minutes of spare time between the job, the baby and life in general.
Making these recordings was an important step, because like all meditations, the Sermons work when listened to, not when read. Check them out!
The first two Sermons in this tale
have just been to prepare
this third one here, where we unveil
the gift of life we share…
The third Sermon is finished, giving me a complex mix of feelings of elation, relief and yearning for more. I am indebted to the friends who gave me critical feedback for it, especially Laila, Kami, Nikki, Viva and Raymond. Thank you a lot! Overall, this Sermon was much easier to write than the second one, as expected, because it tells a more relatable part of the story… but the extra challenge of finishing it in a single year compensated nicely for the reduced difficulty.
Now everything is changing: In a few weeks, my daughter will be born! How amazing is that! Looking forward to it, in this calm before the storm, my anticipation and excitement naturally inspire the process of starting on the fourth Sermon. Of course during the next few months, I will find very little (if any) time to write poetry. But the topic of the fourth Sermon lends itself quite nicely to description by someone very busy with loving care. Continue reading →
Work on the third Sermon is progressing well. A week ago I first presented a preliminary (“beta”) version to a select group of friends and they confirmed, as I hoped they would, that the series of the first three Sermons is considerably more intense than the series of just the first two. But there is still work to be done, and I have just one month until the premiere of the final text at the Less Wrong Community Weekend 2016.
I’m in the polishing stage now, where the narrative doesn’t change much anymore and I can focus on nice turns of phrase, fluency, aesthetics and figurativeness. I solicit feedback from friends and siblings to help me write the best text I can.
In the USA alone, every day, a lucky 10,000 people hear of Richard Dawkins for the first time.
Statistically, you know about Richard Dawkins already, so I won’t go into the vast list of accomplishments he has contributed to the world. I’d rather focus on how his great poetic skill and his scientific work have contributed much to the Seven Secular Sermons. Continue reading →
Work on the third Sermon – now almost certainly titled One of Us – is progressing, approximately on schedule for completion this summer. I have a lot of stanzas, some of them strung together into sequences, a pretty good idea of what goes where, and am now working on synthesizing them into a prototype Secular Sermon that I can read to volunteers and ask for their impressions. This is a familiar part of the process. It involves puzzling pieces together, streamlining them into a narrative, and getting frequently distracted with the finer details of particular lines.
In the German Democratic Republic, where I was born, one of the most popular Christmas songs was Tausend Sterne sind ein Dom. It was written in the aftermath of World War 2, by the music student Siegfried Köhler. I heard and sang it from when I was about seven, and I vividly remember being impressed with the match between its remarkably poetic lyrics and its tender and serene music. Here’s a recording you might enjoy:
I sang it again, for the first time in many years, with a large group of friends at the Secular Solstice 2013. But Secular Solstices, even in Germany, are generally held in English. So for the 2014 Solstice, I wrote a translation of the lyrics into English, and it goes like this. Continue reading →
Around 2070 years ago, probably in or near Rome, a poet and philosopher named Titus Lucretius Carus spent years writing a truly spectacular poem:De rerum natura. The title is commonly translated as On the Nature of Things. This epic poem describes a naturalistic worldview and explains how all sorts of physical, biological, social and mental phenomena are made of atoms – 18 centuries before this was widely accepted. It makes a vague but correct guess at natural selection 19 centuries before Darwin. Before Christianity was even invented, this poem said that if gods exist, they’re made out of atoms and don’t care about us. It is classic epic poetry in dactylic hexameter and about half as long as the Iliad. Its rediscovery is credited with ending the Middle Ages.
The Games of Entropy is now on Youtube! While at it, I also re-recorded Adrift in Space and Time. I recommend this recording over the former because it has much better quality, with improved sound, bluescreen magic and in HD.
I’ve created a PDF of the first two sermons that is easier to print than the raw blog posts are, and prettier. Hope you like it. Having it laid out on physical paper makes the text feel different to me, and the illustrations do improve on the plain text.
The premiere of the second Sermon went very well and I’m very grateful to have found such an attentive and appreciative audience in the astonishing Less Wrong community. This group is truly a collection of remarkable minds, and I’m sure much will become of it. There were about 30 of us, and we went through both existing Sermons non-stop. I was pleased to learn nobody could tell where the first one ended and the second began – after all, the whole thing is a single poem, though in seven parts, and I hope to one day present it as a single, huge, roughly 100 minutes experience. Continue reading →