June 28, 2009

In Answer to WK

WK asked after a previous blog:
What do you think of the Time article entitled The Storm Over the Mormons? I'm interested to know where you stand about the prophet. If Mormons believe a prophet told them to do something, shouldn't they do it, no questions asked?

Let me first say that I read the article. In fact, if you go to the Letters to the Editor section of this week's Time, you'll find my reaction to it. But let me answer in more detail. I completely understand how a member who believes that God speaks through a prophet might feel an absolute obligation to obey his directives. In my mind, however, even if that's what you believe, there are at least two reasons to justify disobedience:
  1. You believe the prophet is in error
  2. You believe living in a manner consistent with the directive is more distasteful than the consequences of disobedience
In my case, I have never been able to accept the Mormon claim that the church is led by a prophet, and since I believe prohibiting gay men and women from experiencing the most love-inspiring of human relationships to be distasteful and contrary to Christ's higher law, the decision to vote against Proposition 8 was easy for me.

Proof of Uncertainty

Kurt Godel proved that in any axiomatic mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved or disproved within the axioms of the system.
You’ve heard me say that logic invariably leads to faith, but don’t take my word for it. There’s considerable evidence to support the idea and people who love the hard sciences will especially appreciate it, because the confirmation comes from logic itself.

As an introduction, consider the 19th Century worldview and how it changed going into our modern age. Throughout the 1800s, there was great enthusiasm and optimism in the power of logic. Earlier scientific and mathematical discoveries—Newton’s classical physics, for example—had uncovered what seemed to be an elegant symmetry in nature, which gave intellectuals a view that all things could be understood in terms of scientific laws. In fact, people (the great Emmanuel Kant, included) believed the logic inherent in science would eventually lead to an understanding of the mind of God.

But cracks began to appear in this deterministic construct. One of the first was the development of non-Euclidean geometries that rejected a postulate used in the plane geometry we study in high school. The possibility that other postulates might be incorrect or of limited value ushered in an age of uncertainty that additional scientific and mathematical discovery only amplified.

The study of physics, for example, added to the disquiet. As physicists delved more deeply into the interactions of subatomic particles, they discovered that such relationships were based upon probabilities rather than strict rules as had been previously supposed. To make matters worse, one implication of the discovery was that the result of any subatomic interaction didn’t finalize until a sentient being observed it. To understand what this means, consider that old philosophical conundrum: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, according to one interpretation of quantum mechanics—the Copenhagen version first posited by the Nobel Laureate, Niels Bohr—the tree doesn’t even fall! Its subatomic particles remain in what is referred to as a probability wave until a sentient observer comes along. Thereupon the particles “choose” one of the infinite range of possibilities available to them. (My son, who is working on a physics PhD, tells me no one really believes that’s what happens, although it is consistent with the inexplicable results of various experiments. For more on this, see the book Schrodinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality, by John Gribbin, which in my opinion is the best book about quantum mechanics written for lay people).

Perhaps one of the most significant discoveries that increased the uncertain worldview of our time was made by Bertrand Russell, a man who had once been a proponent of mathematical determinism. Russell discovered a logical inconsistency in set theory that is evident in the following question:
A man of Seville is shaved by the barber of Seville, if and only if, the man doesn’t shave himself. Does the barber shave himself?

The paradox can be described in a rigorous mathematical way, but consider the following simplification: Obviously, the barber of Seville either shaves himself or he doesn’t. Regardless, however, the result is illogical. If he shaves himself, he cannot be shaved by the barber of Seville, but since he is the barber of Seville and he shaves himself...well, you get the point. The problem, as Russell was able to distinguish, can occur anytime a set is an element of itself. For example, the set of men shaved by the barber of Seville (let’s call this A) is not an element of itself, because A is not a man shaved by the barber of Seville. However, let’s create another set (which we’ll call R) and include in it everything that is not in set A. Since set R is also not a man who is shaved by the barber of Seville, it is an element of itself, a characteristic often called self-referencing. This may seem like a trivial matter, but self-referencing can lead to serious logical problems and points to the limitations of logic.

Finally, let me describe a theorem that is simplistically sneaky, but has implications that have essentially put an end to strict mathematical determinism. I’m talking about Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which like Russell’s Paradox, has a rigorous mathematical rendering, but can be described in simplified terms.

Let’s say you create a computer that you call the Universal Truth Machine (or UTM for short) which you’ve programmed to tell the truth. Before approaching it, you write the following words on a sheet of paper:

The UTM will never say this sentence is true.

Now, you turn the UTM on, show it the paper and ask if the statement is true. What happens? First, the UTM can’t say the statement is true. Can you see why? If it does, the statement will be rendered false, which is contrary to the UTM’s programming. In a paradoxical way, the fact that the computer will not say the statement is true is your greatest evidence that the statement is, in fact, true. On the other hand, the UTM can’t say the statement is false, either, since as we’ve already demonstrated, that would be untrue. (Another way to look at it is if the UTM said the statement was false, it would render the statement true).
Again, the result seems contrived and trivial, but the math is sophisticated and full of implications. In short, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem suggests that rational thought can never penetrate to the ultimate truth, or said another way: There are truths that cannot be discerned, or proved, strictly through the use of logic.

June 24, 2009

Meeting My Granddaughter for the First Time

This is the star I orbit. I'm trapped in her gravity. There is no escape.

The Rap on Religion

Religion gets a bad rap. We blame it for every awful event in our history, from the Inquisition to 9-11, with slavery and the holocaust as examples that occurred in between. It’s not difficult to find fault in faith-based devotion, since it appears to be an element of much of the revolution and organized violence that occurs in the world. Yet while religion is certainly a part of the cultural tableau that permeates such sad historical events, can we really say it’s the underlying cause?

Sam Harris, the author of The End of Faith and an ardent critic of religion, says we should recognize organized faiths—particularly, Islam, Judaism and Christianity—as institutions that threaten to undermine civilization due to their taboos against any questioning of their beliefs. The upshot of his message is that we should, in turn, question the ideal of religious tolerance. In fact, he encourages what he calls conversational intolerance, which demands that faith be put on the same plane as the study of physics or history in terms of our willingness to question its theories and conclusions. Anyone who has read from my blog knows that I embrace this idea completely. However, Harris goes too far (for my taste) by fostering a degree of intolerance that is as dangerous as the religious fanaticism he opposes. More importantly, he sees religion as the cause of the world’s problems, rather than a tool that corruption employs.

Let me be clear on this topic: I like the idea of conversational intolerance. Spirituality, in my opinion, should advance just like science and there’s no way to do so without changing the norms of the past. The religious codes by which we live, after all, were first proffered thousands of years ago to people living in circumstances little resembling our own. We should be willing, therefore, to measure our religious beliefs in the same way we probe our mathematical assumptions, by asking: Does this have value and how do I know it does? To do so, however, requires our ideal of faithfulness to eschew blind acceptance and be open to the kind of inquiry that may result in an occasional adjustment to core beliefs. If we can grow in this way, we accomplish what Harris wants without undermining the need for faith.

In contrast, a strict intolerance for faith that leads to its knee-jerk rejection (which I sense is what Harris is chomping at the bit to recommend) will only result in the creation of other gods. As I’ve argued before, a leap of faith is inevitable. We can only change the direction of that leap. The reason I believe this has its basis in the following two premises:
  1. Bad people—not bad religions—cause the world’s atrocities
  2. If faith can’t be used as a tool, bad people will create other “gods” to get what they want

I can’t think of any religion that demands its followers to live the law of the jungle. In fact, they all aspire, in some way, to raise people from a primal condition into some state of enlightenment. A religion may condone episodes of bloodshed to accomplish its objective, but in the end it hopes for social order. In this context, a recent article in Time Magazine, entitled Decoding God’s Changing Moods, points out that the God of scripture often vacillates between periods of belligerence and tolerance. The common theme behind the back-and-forth is this: When the scriptural worldview posits a non-zero-sum game, God tends to be more tolerant as a way to encourage a win-win. On the other hand, when a projected outcome sums to zero (such as a gain to the Palestinians is deemed a loss to Israel) watch out.

For that reason people can find scriptural rationale to act out their religious zeal as either angels or assholes. Some choose the former. Some choose the latter before discovering a moderating discipline in faith. Still others start out as assholes and adopt justification for their base desires in tortured interpretations of scripture. It wasn’t, therefore, religion that demanded the Inquisition. It was the same greedy and self-indulgent men who could overlook murder through the sale of indulgences that built the racks and established the tribunals. Their intent was to gain power and control over the masses, conditions for which there is no scriptural imperative. God didn’t want coerced professions of faith. To assume otherwise is to think He’s not very bright. Yet, to those men of the cloth who hungered for authority to the exclusion of Christ’s mercy, faith was simply a tool. If it hadn’t been available, they would have found another one like it.

Eliminating religion, therefore, only causes evil to recruit other gods. There are many from which to choose. Let me suggest a few:

  • Cultural or Ethnic Superiority
  • The Law
  • Economic Systems
  • Military or Technological Prowess
  • Hatred

Let me give you an example of how an alternative god can be held hostage and forced to participate in an atrocity. Some people blame the Catholic Church for turning a blind eye to the holocaust, but there was far more going on than Christianity taking a dim view of the descendants of those who were said to have crucified its Savior. As Hannah Arendt is quick to point out in her treatise, Eichmann in Jerusalem, the holocaust was authorized by a carefully crafted mountain of secular laws and legal interpretations. One such law permitted euthanasia for the physically and mentally handicapped. It apparently didn’t take much consideration to put Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals in that category. Yet, we don’t say the German legal system caused the holocaust. We understand that people determine and enforce laws.

In short, let’s not blame religion for the world’s ills. We might as easily say the devil made us do it. In the end, we have only ourselves to blame.

June 21, 2009

Touched by the Spirit

In response to one of my earlier blogs, Jack said the following:

I think you've overlooked the fact that when the spirit testifies of something (like, for example, that God lives) then you have your proof. That's more proof than anything a mathematician can show on paper.
To Jack and anyone else who cares to listen, let me relate a personal experience.

After Lori and I were married, we attended church at a Mormon ward that was comprised of young married students. I was asked, at the time, to organize regular events during which the ward members could gather and listen to speakers address issues of secular interest. Soon after accepting the responsibility, I heard of a man who’d uncovered numerous historical documents from the church's early days. I gave him a call and asked if he would speak to my congregation. He agreed without reservation.

On the evening of the event, the man came at the appointed time and brought several examples of documents he had uncovered. They included a fragment that contained Queen Isabella’s signature and another that came from an original Declaration of Independence. However, the document he showcased was a letter written by Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the Mormon Church’s first prophet, Joseph Smith. He handed out copies of the letter printed on expensive parchment paper. I wish I still had my copy, but alas, I’ve lost it.

The letter was addressed to one of Lucy Mack Smith’s relations and told of the work Joseph was accomplishing to bring forth the Book of Mormon. He had, according to the letter, translated over 100 pages that Lucy referred to as the Book of Lehi. Two aspects of the letter’s contents are noteworthy. First, the over 100 pages (actually 116) were subsequently lost and never recovered. According to Mormon theology, God instructed Joseph to, rather than retranslate the work, replace it with a translation of another source document. Therefore, the contents of the original manuscript are the subject of much speculation. Nowhere that I know of, aside from the letter ascribed to Lucy Mack Smith, are there any claims that the lost pages were known as the Book of Lehi.

Second, the letter gives insight into Book of Mormon events that aren’t recorded in the current version. For example, the Book of Mormon talks of a prophet Lehi, who after prophesying of the destruction of Jerusalem, took his family into the desert to await further instruction from God. There, God ordered Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem to convince a man named Ishmael to accompany them into the wilderness. This was necessary, according to the account, so that Lehi’s sons would have Ishmael’s daughters to marry. As part of the letter’s commentary on the event, Lucy Mack Smith told her relation that Ishmael was Lehi’s brother and therefore knew of Lehi’s standing with God. That information is not included in the Book of Mormon today.

The reason this remains so clear in my memory is because the man who shared the document with us, became quite emotional as he referenced this section of the letter. He told us that he’d always wondered what would cause Ishmael to walk into the desert (after all, the invitation of a few young men who were hungry for his daughters seemed insufficient) but the letter answered his nagging question. When I say the man became emotional, what I mean is he shed tears of what appeared to be joy and gratitude, and with a wavering voice he shared a powerful testimony that the Book of Mormon was what it claimed to be: God’s word. I have to say that I was moved by what the man said, and judging from the sniffles and smiles from others who’d come to listen, I wasn’t alone. By the end of the evening, I was being congratulated for organizing a wonderful faith-promoting experiencing.

Why am I telling you this story?

If you’re familiar with events that shook the Salt Lake Valley in 1985, you’ll know that the Lucy Mack Smith letter is a forgery created by the very man who came to speak at the gathering I'd arranged. That man, Mark Hoffman, was the creator of dozens of similar forged documents, including one that is now known as the Salamander Letter, which supposedly quotes Joseph Smith and is an account of a white salamander that gave Joseph directions to where the source record for the Book of Mormon could be found. Yet, that’s not Mark Hoffman at his worst. In an effort to protect the secret of his forgeries, the man murdered two people and is now behind bars for the rest of his life.

My question is: Why would I—and others, too—have felt the spirit, if it confirmed what amounted to a lie? Perhaps it wasn’t the spirit, after all, but an emotional response based upon William James’ will to believe. The fact is, as I’ve asserted elsewhere, we can’t know if God is speaking to us, although it would be nice to think He does.

What I’ve written here isn’t an isolated case, as I could give other examples. For instance, my first spiritual experience was in the Vatican, while I sang with a choir in Saint Peters Basilica. Most Mormons would object if I were to say that the spirit had come to testify of Catholicism. Then, a year later, I decided to go on a mission after hearing a church leader, Paul H. Dunn, speak. Dunn was an extraordinary orator, who had tremendous influence over the youth of the church. During his address he spoke of once being a pitcher for the Saint Louis Cardinals and of his exploits as a decorated soldier in the Korean War. Though I was filled with what I presumed then to be the spirit, subsequent developments have cast a shadow on that special moment in my life. You see, a journalist began looking into Dunn’s background and discovered that he’d never played professional baseball, neither had he fought in a war. When this information came to light, Dunn was quickly put on emeritus status by the church.

In a future blog, I’d like to use Mormon scripture to show how difficult it is to “hear” God’s instructions, but for now, let’s acknowledge the difficulty and the underlying uncertainty involved. At the very least, we might admit that such an experience is not proof at all, but a jumping off place for our leap of faith.

June 18, 2009

Happy Fathers Day

My father first took me fishing before I could grasp a rod, and for more than a decade of summers thereafter, he made it an almost daily practice. Until this year I'd come to think our excursions were a thing of the past. Yet when I needed it most, Dad found a way back to tranquil water.

I grew up in Southcentral Alaska, where salmon filled the rivers and gave themselves up to a hungry food chain. My father and I caught more than a few fish together, but that was never our primary interest. Spending time outdoors in a place shaped by mammoth tides and glacier-fed streams was at least as important. For Dad, it was also an opportunity to put theory into action. He worried about me--knowing the problems kids face--but he figured: Boys who are busy fishing won't get into trouble.
Today I understand his reasoning, because I recognize fishing as a remedy for a host of ills. I planned my life on the banks of turquoise rivers, a fly rod in hand, casting flesh and egg patterns to monster rainbow trout and char. Dad would point to interesting water and muse aloud at how he might fish it. Being a serious angler, he didn't say much otherwise, just smiled in my direction when he hooked something big.

I learned life's lessons while with Dad. One summer we pulled two grown men from a river after their conoe had capsized. Safe on the bank, they watched their camping gear float away and the first words either of them could muster was: "Hell, there goes my cigarettes." I laughed until I recognized a melancholy side to wanting.

But that didn't stop me from doing the same thing: want things that seemed to drift beyond my grasp. I left Alaska in search of fortunes elsewhere and saw my parents only during the handful of vacation days I could scrape up. The regularity of our fishing trips became further constrained by Dad's age and diminished health. Then a few years ago, my folks moved to the small town in Idaho where my father grew up.

I thought the relocation would mark an end to our time on water, but Dad saw opportunity in it. He reminded me that a day's drive was all that separated us now and that Alaska didn't hold a monopoly on fish. He spoke of trout streams near his new home--places he'd frequented as a boy--and invited me to spend a week with him to try our luck there.

I jumped at the chance, in part, because I'd come through a rough patch. After two decades searching for wealth (and finding only money and position instead) I was disillusioned and unhappy. I'd just quit my job and begun to think of myself as a "recovering" investment banker. I swore to do something nobler than mind the figures in a trading ledger, but I needed time to clear my head and make plans. A week with Dad on a trout stream sounded therapeutic, if not magical.
There were unexpected bonuses to our reunion. Dad showed me the home where he was born, the camp he'd visited as a Boy Scout and the grove where he'd picked chokecherries. We went to a diner and ordered the special--chicken noodle soup on mashed potatoes--and I listened to Dad's recollections of a time long ago.

Early the first full day, he drove us along a dirt road through hay and barley fields until we arrived at a train trestle spanning a deep chasm. The rails had been stripped, but Dad remembered when trains still ran the line. The year 1882 was cast into one of the concrete butresses, but the girders were as clean as if they'd been set in place a month before.

We walked across the span over swirling water a hundred fee below us. Boulders and fallen timber littered the streambed. Cottonwoods and scrub willows covered each slope. Upstream the water curved and left a promising pool along one bank. In the opposite direction swift wter disappeared behind thick foliage. The creek had everything we wanted: deep pockets, riffles, cutbanks and rocks. In a manner approaching reverence, my father spoke its name: Bitch Creek.
When I wondered about its appellation, Dad shrugged. "She's a bitch to get down to," is all he said.

Undaunted, we clambered down the slope through a cloud of dust, hoping we'd eventually find an easier way back. From the bank we threw stone-fly nymphs and hopper patterns into the swirling water behind boulders. Native cutthroats, some as long as our forearms, took with a vengeance and fought like berserkers.
By the end of the day, my therapy had taken hold and I stopped worrying about life's vagaries. Being with Dad reminded me that the riches of a lifetime aren't found in the baubles we collect, but in human relationships. And as long as there are babbling streams and a father's devotion, I figure this boy won't get into too much trouble.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.

June 17, 2009

Good Answer

In reference to my last blog, Matt said the following:

I think the distinction between religion-based faith and science-based faith is that when I believe in a scientific theory, I do so with full knowledge that it may (and probably will) be supplanted by a more complete theory in the future. This doesn't mean that it was wrong to believe in the theory in the first place. It can be viewed more as a stepping-stone on the way towards the real truth.

Maybe this is the point that you've been getting at the whole time in regards to religious faith. I think what Christ ultimately wants is for us to search for truth throughout our lives. We may not learn everything there is to know about this world, but the mere act of searching (within his guidelines) is what makes us better people. I believe that doing so will bring us farther ahead than those who thought they knew the whole truth from the beginning.

I love this idea and concur with it completely. It raises, however, an interesting view of religious faith. When Einstein delivered his General Theory of Relativity, did people of science throw up their hands and say, "Newton was an idiot. He deceived us."? Of course not. We still revere Sir Isaac for the classical physics he developed (which is still a pretty-darn good description of the world) but we understand that it misses a few ingredients.

Someday, we'll probably learn that there's another physical law--that elusive Theory of Everything--that will combine General Relativity with quantum mechanics. Will we then say, "Einstein was a bonehead. He led us down the wrong path"? No, we will still see him as a brilliant man, whose shoulders we've climbed upon to gain a view to higher ground.

Why can't people of religious faith do the same? Why can't we assume that there is more to learn regarding spiritual matters than what's written in the Bible? To believe it should serve the same purpose for me as it did for a people steeped in superstition who were living a hand-to-mouth existence, defies reason. I don't own an ox that might get stuck in the mud on the Sabbath. Though the Bible is a wonderful guide, we must use it as one of many guides that puts us on higher ground in order to deal with issues the Children of Israel must have thought highly improbable.

June 14, 2009

The Leap of Faith

Someone recently asked me to clarify what I mean about a leap of faith and why I claim that all people experience it. Let me begin by saying that I take a more inclusive view on the nature of faith. To me, it’s any unproven, or un-provable, premise upon which we base our decisions. I realize that most people see faith as a religious construct. However, I recognize little difference in the effect of 1) believing God wills the sun to rise in the morning, versus 2) believing the interaction of gravitational fields causes the phenomenon. Eventually, one has to put trust in a concept that is unseen.

I know what you’re thinking. One might object by saying gravity is a proven physical property, whereby God’s existence is not. To this I say: Proof, at a personal level, is something that occurs in the intellect and heart. For instance, going back to the concept of gravity, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to fathom Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which is sometimes described as a theory of gravity. While Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is quite easy to conceptualize (first-year physics students are required to understand it) the General Theory is dense and requires a background in complex mathematics, including non-Euclidean geometry, to master. To fully comprehend it, one must go beyond the conceptual breakthrough Einstein achieved in equating gravity with acceleration. Though I believe in his theories, I’m relegated to only professing faith in them. Despite much effort otherwise, I don’t understand his work in any degree that I can call knowledge. Furthermore, I can’t see gravity. All I can see of it is what I presume to be gravity’s effects, including the earth’s orbit around the sun.

What I’ve just described is also akin—I might say, nearly identical—to my faith in God. Though in many ways God remains a mystery to me, logic has led me to believe in His existence and the value of the gospel of love and kindness He espouses. The logical pathway that has led me to a subsequent leap of faith is perhaps the topic of another discussion, but for now let me say this: I’ve come to believe in God, not through any willy-nilly process, but through study and contemplation of life’s experiences. Yet, I’m quick to admit that my concept of Him might be wrong or incomplete, which notion keeps me learning and allows my faith to rest comfortably beside Einstein’s (and Darwin’s, as well as other people’s) theories. In fact, I’m convinced that God wants us—above all else—to never end our search for knowledge and to accept what is true no matter where truth is found. That idea is contained in the following poem I penned many years ago:

Drawing its timelessness incapsulated,
As from an apothecary’s jar,
The word stretched me beyond horizons
To give me a sense of God.

For what of Godliness,
Unless it be unfettered, unchained,
Free of horizons constraining mortal men?

Its good news changed this mortal’s course,
Having swallowed
(But being swallowed in return)
And hearing Him, who was more than philosopher say:
“Know the truth,”
I’ve searched.

But the search continues,
For somewhere unbound and never-resting,
The father of my soul urges onward,
To walk the path free of mortal constraints,
To be like him:
Unfettered and unchained.

A belief that the sun will rise tomorrow—whether it’s derived from religious faith, logic, or a combination of the two—results in behavior that plans and prepares for the eventuality. In the same way, if we were confident the sun would never rise again, would we go to work tomorrow? Most of us, I’m sure, would huddle with family and other loved ones in an expression of love and devotion until the end came or we were proved wrong. This result would be the same, whether rooted in scriptural or scientific revelation. To that extent, the effects of our assumptions are similar, no matter how they’re derived.

Here, I must be allowed a digression: Would the holocaust—or the inquisition, or slavery, for that matter—have occurred without religion? In my opinion, immoral and selfish people would have justified such abhorrent acts on the basis of some other philosophy or pseudo science. In each case, it was political gain and wealth that people were after and tortured logic made God a convenient scapegoat. (I’d like to discuss this in more detail in some future blog).

But back to my point: Another way to express a leap of faith is to say thinking people, over the course of their lifetimes, acquire sets of values based upon personal inquiries that little differ whether approached from a religious or secular perspective. These personal inquiries include the following:

  • Is there a God who loves me and can intercede on my behalf?
  • Is there a purpose for me in life? If so, how can I actualize it?
  • What is the nature of human beings? Are they good, evil, or neither?
  • What is proper behavior and what is its calculus?
Notice two things about these questions. First, they have been—and will continue to be—asked by spiritual and secular thinkers alike, and are as important to reason-loving Plato as to the deeply pious Kant. They are the purview of both religion and social science, and are topics central to what Mortimer Adler calls, “The Great Conversation,” which every generation must consider for itself. Second, none of these questions can be answered by pointing to indisputable physical proof, but must be concluded on a deeply personal basis. The process of answering these questions is the universal leap of faith of which I speak.

The resulting faith—the set of assumptions we each acquire—gives birth to core values and becomes the basis for every decision made. However, as I’ve said many times before, these decisions are rooted in beliefs rather than knowledge and we should be open to the possibility that better choices are available.

Lyra Xie Bahr--Born June 9, 2009

It's official. I'm a grandpa! Lyra (as in lyrical) Xie Bahr was born on June 9th. Both mother and daughter are well. The father is as proud as a peacock.

(As my son was quick to point out, we're in June now. My earlier reference to Lyra's birthday as being in May was incorrect).

Update: She's two-years old now and here's a video of the star I orbit.