Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon

If I ever start taking myself very seriously, I know how to get a quick recalibration. I mean in addition to asking my wife. A quick look at the figure above immediately shows me just how important I am, which is not at all, of course. But that doesn't depress me, despite the near endless rain and grey skies we've had this month. It's actually liberating to know that ultimately we're each pretty insignificant. Now we don't have to go out and win a Nobel Prize in Medicine, we can focus on more realistic goals like taking out the garbage or petting the cat.

This knowledge also allows us to put issues of great contention into perspective:

Politics is all about power, who gets to decide who gets to live well and who has to support them. Just as turkeys ought not to be strong advocates for Thanksgiving dinners, we might well consider how an election result will actually affect our lives. It's not about some abstract ideology; it's personal.

In Religion, we might want to consider the enormity of the universe before declaring allegiance to a God that fits neatly into our pocket, that is easily understood and interpreted. We might decide to leave a little room for mystery and uncertainty. At least we'd have fewer Holy Wars.

In Environment, we might come to recognize this earth is the only place we have. Unlike farmers who once practiced slash and burn agriculture, we can't foul this nest and simply move to another. There may be hospitable planets out there, but they are generations away, too far to consider. Should pilgrims depart for greener planets with the skills necessary to start over, it's unlikely their descendents will still have those skills once they arrive. And besides, we might get there and find the planet already taken.

Here's a little primer on the universe provided by Eric Idle, NASA, and a fellow who signs himself "finlarg."


  1. I think you've nailed it, Jim. I don't mind being unimportant, a mere speck in the continuum of time. But I do care about our earth that will, I hope, long outlast me, and about what we do to it during our short stay.

  2. Well thought and well stated. I would only add that politics is also all about money along with power. There was a time when the two were a bit more separate but not anymore.

    1. You're right, of course. But the money part applies equally to both parties.