WALKING ON NOTHING
OK everyone, please turn off your cell phones. While Celestial Tours knows you have paid your dues, others might be disturbed by calls to 911. We will encounter some disturbing views. Not that anyone would answer. But it's the jangling of nerves. Thank you.
Now as we pass on the right please notice the famous "horse head nebula," the star nursery: In the C-section, pardon the pun.
And coming up we will definitely not see the black hole, look as closely as you will. You may notice a planet or two being swept over the lip, like busses in a tsunami surge sucked out to sea. There may be a bit of turbulence. Sanity masks will drop down if necessary. We guarantee your safe return. Just take a deep breath and say, " Ahhh."
Stuff! he thought. Now there's . . .
Too much of it. Everything is manufactured. We're still slaves, but we're rich ones, held down by what we own. How long before enough of us catch on and the lobbyists smell their fat in the fire?
Nebba hoppen, GI.
Wanna bet? It's a race against ourselves, near the end of the marathon, and we're already short of drinking water.
A supercharged engine just runs out of fuel faster. It's not whether the fuel runs out before the water, but whether civilization survives itself. We have survived dark ages and plagues and ill gotten schemes for the betterment of rulers and owners, even the betterment of civilization. We could stop buying stuff; we could end slavery with an enlightened use of technology; we could replant the rain forests, phase out fossil fuel – all well and good, but treating the symptoms brings only temporary relief.
Ya Ha! he thought.
The end is near!
Before we get there, let's ask: how did we get this far?
Civilization has plenty going for it. All you defenders are right. Animals cannot write or create symphonies or use the internet. Beavers make dams; we make great cities. We are much better at war. Ooops! Slip of the mind . . . .
All you nay-sayers out there in the bleachers, quit cheering!
Humming along, he thought. People building up and tearing down, all at the same time. Powerful telescopes show us the same happening everywhere in the universe. Archaeologists have shown us that civilizations come and go. . . Who will have the temerity to stand with palm upraised, saying: "Enough is enough!"
Evolution is a spiral. It goes round and round, and it comes out here. Which is pretty near. Except in the next moment near is far back there. Does it end?
Look at your skin, a rather obvious boundary, large membrane enclosing your body. Membranes enclose smaller structures that work together for their own maintenance and reproduction. Let us hope that you are not thin skinned because your survival depends on it for protection.
Using a microscope . . .
what makes up each person
that no person can own
where everyone returns
this computer needs to be rebooted
is a firefly
with half a wing
who is without bread
the first cinnamon roll
enough is enough!
you're getting the boot
. . . this large membrane is seen to contain many smaller ones. An even more powerful microscope can delve into the molecules and atoms which make up the smaller membranes. At this level the structure of DNA is seen to be a helix.
Progress, DNA, spiral galaxies of the universe, all dancing on atoms which, physicists say, are mostly nothing. There is some quibble on whether nothing is really nothing but rather just another dimension of waves which are not visible to our eyes. Dark energy; dark matter -- less detectable than black holes.
When we dance, what is dancing? Our pirouette is who? So far no one has been able to find this 'who' within the dancer, yet we're all quite sure there is one. Sometimes it's called 'self,' yet still amorphous.
Within each large membrane of skin must be all the elements needed for maintenance and reproduction; each person relies on this boundary to identify what lies without. Inside, there operates something that discriminates what is needed from without from what is not. Each person has a brain which evaluates future needs and threats. A sense of 'me' or 'self' is very useful in assigning these evaluations, so this is part of the equipage. This idea of a 'self' is so obviously necessary and useful that it, too, is evaluated and assigned a high rank, usually top priority. Whether it can be physically located seems immaterial to the needs of everyday life. Call this a suspension of disbelief; we are willing to forget that it is immaterial.
Probably these considerations will not suffice to sell you a Prius. If you are a helicopter pilot, fossil fuel will be of more interest. And in either case, you might need carrots, eggs, broccoli when you get home, as long as it's still there. Shoes. Things still need to be bought and sold; that's how civilization works. This everyday reality is the near side of what might be imagined the end.
Whether near or far, that which goes around comes around. This time around civilization has at its disposal a rapidly morphing pandemonium of technology that is very powerful, which is either a problem or a promise, depending on your evaluation. Whether or not you buy a unicycle will not much affect where the rest of civilization is going, but your process of evaluation might. And we have seen how tricky this process is, commonly assigning top priority to an illusion.
Civilization has evolved through the interplay of two dynamics, competition and co-operation, usually thought to be in opposition. Brief reflection will reveal that both work towards a common end, the design and building of necessary infrastructure. Energy and deliberation work together. Individual sovereignty yields in the degree necessary to acquire goals not individually attainable. The individual calculus of benefits, however, must satisfy an illusion: what's good for the community is good for me, my children, our country, posterity.
Can it go on indefinitely this way? Probably not.
Of course this is an evaluation, but what if this time around civilization manages to self-destruct? Or could we manage to get the 'self' out of our equation? Could there be a larger dimension for our process, right here?
My eyeglasses, he thought, are right here. Or they were.
Where did they go?
Oh -- on my head. Going nowhere.