All posts by charlescearl


The Strength of Mothers

Spending this Mother’s Day apart from my partner and children’s mother, still amazed by the strength and unfaltering love that she and her Sister-Mothers give. Their power is not to be ignored.

Guardian Mother Karl Marx-Hof

Mother guardians

Watching over the River

The original Lady Liberty smashes slave chains

Remembrance for Poincaré

If you have read Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem, the name Henri Poincaré might ring a bell. Poincaré was an early twentieth century mathematical master. One of his feats was an analysis of how three masses in mutual orbit behave. This analysis provides the foundation for chaos theory. In Liu’s science fiction book, the main character becomes obsessed with an online game that hinges on a world orbiting three suns — a cosmic version of Poincaré’s problem.

Poincaré is also the central figure in modern topology. He made an educated guess — a conjecture — that any 3 dimensional manifold ( I promise that you’ll get the feels for what a manifold is if you follow the link) that is finite in size and without boundary can be described by a 3 dimensional sphere. Basically if you have a shape that has no holes and can be fit into a box, then you can mush the shape into a sphere. Ok, just watch this video or try these games.

It took about a hundred years to prove Poincaré’s guess — Grigori Perelman did so in 2002 and was awarded (but refused) a Fields Medal and won (but refused) the $1 million Millenium Challenge. Poincaré accomplished intellectual gold in his short lifetime, giving us the formalization for gravitational waves and chaos theory among many other thins. He championed human rights and the Poincaré Institut actively continues his work.

On a whim I visited Montparnasse Cemetery where he rests with other family. The groundskeeper was so excited to point me to the location. I took some photos during a brief lull in the rain as the day’s national strike unfolded.

Fresh flowers — the Poincaré’s are not forgotten.


Waiting for a visa

My spouse received her Schengen visa this morning. It was quite a nail biter as we tried to a trip to France. She is a citizen of Botswana, while the kids and I have US passports. Meanwhile, a colleague of mine is probably in a similar condition awaiting their Schengen visa for travel to Vienna from Indore.

While we waited, I tried to get my French compréhension up by reading Thomas Piketty’s blog en français. While reading this linked article on income and class inequality in India, I learned about Babasaheb Ambedkar — an advocate for the rights of people from marginalized castes (the term Dalit is used widely though contested) and by all measures one of the freedom fighters who brought India out of colonialism. His memoir is entitled —  Waiting for a Visa.

The human crises brought about by global climate change alone should dictate the shared international acceptance of open borders. But as this graphic from the UN World Tourism Organization shows, we’re a long way off from Bob Marley and Haile Selassie’s dream of “world citizenship”.


The world’s visa policies evince a lot of anti-African (my spouse travels on a Botswana passport), anti-Asian bias.

I take consolation that some countries are taking the lead.


We should all be thankful that Mauritius and Seychelles are right there in the top — and that the Caribbean is greeting the world with open arms!

I’m taking stock of my US passport privileges. I’m praying for a more inclusive world.


For Maria

We celebrated the life of my cousin Maria today. She was a little over a year older than I, and leaves to this world a devoted partner Greg and daughter Morgan and son Jordan.

This day was full of remembrance and thanks, joy and beauty, pain, loss, hope, wisdom.

I think of flowers this day because the sweet Georgia air was full of fragrance, filled with sunlight, with gentle cool breezes. It took me back to the days years ago when she and her family would pull up for a visit — people just showed up back in the pre-text, pre cell, pre messenger days — or we would wind up there after church or when my mother wanted to drop by.

Maria was an artist at heart. I think of her dancing, talking about the books she was writing. There was a lyricism in her voice, it spoke poetry, words seeming formed in a gentle particular authentic Atlanta Sista rhythm.

Maria had a way of telling truth and imparting truth. I think that in every conversation from the ’80s forward there was some kernel of wisdom that I would keep and turn over like gem. My thing has always been science fiction and how imagined realities or worlds give a prism for viewing the here and now. There is this character — The Oracle — in the matrix movies, played by a Sister in both, who in that perceptive way lays out truth and what lies ahead. I always half thought they must have based that character on Maria, because who then in Hollywood would have had the audacity and originality to appreciate the foresight and clarity of an Oracle in Black skin unless they’d encountered it in the flesh? My cousin had that kind of wisdom.

As I write this words like ferocity and indomitable come forth. As the world medicates on the loss of some Parisian cathedral, I’m thinking how miraculous it was for a Black woman to rebuild and reconstruct herself day after day for ten years with cancer. And laughing, and dancing, and writing. I’m thinking about how it’s a story that plays out for so many Black women battling the emotional and physical struggles.

I wish for her precious children that they find for themselves the best dream that she wished for them. I wish for them that they remember her voice in moments joyful and sad, that they treasure those kernels of truth that will come to them in dreams. I wish that they joyfully sing her songs, re-dance her dances, recall her jokes to their children, or nieces, or students, or share them with someone who needs that lift. I wish that they hold themselves dear and sacred. I wish for them that they speak truth and inspire, that they live and with the fire and grace of artists in their own chosen path.