Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Part of the Whirling Rubble*

Richard Dawkins, ethnologist, evolutionary biologist and non-theist, gives the following response when asked, as he often is, why he bothers to get up in the morning: 

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades, we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? 

I thought about this comment of Dawkins’ last Saturday morning as I sat in an elegantly serene and comfortable aerie overlooking one of Puget Sound’s glistening bays. The Cascade Mountain Range jutted jagged, impressive and imposing in the distance. Mt. Baker—partially snow-covered—stood sentry in the forefront.

My “… brief time in the sun …” has spanned several decades. However, only in the last three have I focused so intently on the natural world. In Voyage of the Beagle Charles Darwin wrote, “It is wearisome to be in a fresh rapture at every turn, but you must be that or nothing.” In no way am I comparing myself to Darwin; however, there are times when awe of the universe overwhelms my senses—in the most delightful of ways!

In my own unscientific manner, I question, read and research; as a result, at every turn, I discover even more to think and wonder about. 

This 4+ minute video, Ultra-Deep-Field-3D, taken when professional astronomers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at "nothing," is both incredible and humbling.

Of course, all life as we know it is finite. That’s nothing new to me or to any other sentient being.

One of the most fascinating and, in a selfish sense, comforting realizations that has come to me within the last five years is understanding that “energy” never really disappears but simply changes form. This has given me an entirely new way of looking at death ... my own or anything/anyone else’s.

In her autobiography, Dust Tracks on the Road, author, anthropologist and folklorist, Zora Neale Hurston, eloquently wrote:

The springing of the yellow line of morning out of the misty deep of dawn, is glory enough for me. I know that … things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases … I will be still part and parcel of the world. I was a part before the sun rolled into shape and burst forth in the glory of change. I was, when the earth was hurled out from its fiery rim. I shall return with the earth to Father Sun, and still exist in substance when the sun has lost its fire, and disintegrated into infinity to ... become a part of the whirling rubble* of space. Why fear? 

The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving...never lost. ... I am one with the infinite. 

The 13 ¾ billion year continuum of the universe intrigues me and, rather than make me feel small and inconsequential, gives a comforting understanding of my evolutionary connection to the whole. How can one not feel this way when living on such a “…sumptuous planet”?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Factual & Fabricated

You may be a faithful reader of this blog. It’s also possible you stumbled across it in pursuit of something enlightening, informing, interesting or intriguing. You will not find any more in these posts than the thoughts and observations of someone who thinks best when putting words on paper and for whom the written word has always held great fascination.

The seed of an idea for a blog post may arise from an actual event in my life; from something I’ve heard or read in the news; from the fleeting and often disparate thoughts which clutter my mind and clamor for attention.

As I write—in effect germinating that seed—the varied tendrils and sprouts that arise take on forms, qualities and colors which many times veer from reality. Parts of the post may be fiction, yet the conclusion is never fabricated. Along the way there’s been an epiphany, an answer, an explanation.

Writing helps me sort out factual, actual dilemmas and gather seemingly disparate thoughts—sometimes with the help of a fabrication (or two).

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
~ E. M. Forster

Friday, March 10, 2017

Still Evolving

I’m distancing myself more and more from world and national events. I’m mentally walking away from the hate-filled, contentious declarations and daily exhortations to fear. I’m spending less and less time listening to or watching national news shows. 

I no longer spend time fustigating and fulminating about what I view as inane and senseless editorial opinions in newspapers or on television (which means my usual stream of fairly benign, albeit counter-attack letters and blog posts is down to little more than a trickle) and I don’t give more than a cursory glance to those media espousing beliefs or thoughts with which I do concur. 

In retrospect, this “evolution of thought” has been percolating for some time. However, it increased as I read David McCullough’s book, 1776, which focuses on the events surrounding the start of the American Revolution.

And now, as I read McCullough’s amazing biographical work, John Adams, it is achingly clear to me that, for all the scientific and technical evolution Homines sapientes have achieved, it seems we truly don’t learn from past mistakes--the ratio of greedy, nefarious, self-serving, lying, rapacious and grasping humans appears to hold steady.

Over 160 years ago, French critic, journalist and novelist  Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr observed, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," or, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Total cynicism hasn’t yet crept into my heart and mind. I am simply focusing even more on those who are dear to me, relishing and reciprocating their love and care. I am more thankful than ever for my home and health. In short, I choose to hold close that which enriches my life; I choose to expend less mental energy in the areas over which I have little or no control.

Interestingly, “Homo sapiens” is from the Latin for “the wise human” or “the clever human.” I’d agree we humans are very clever—but then, so are many other animals. I question whether we are as wise, loving and caring as we have the capacity to be.