Delight Springs

Friday, September 27, 2013

Road trip!

Not much time to reflect on things this a.m., it's Parents' Weekend and I've got to pack, then drive. I'll drop Younger Daughter at school, then hit Krispy Kreme (or she'll insist on reversing that order),  then hit I-40. Looking forward to sitting in on someone else's classes this afternoon, for a change. I haven't done the readings for "Search" and Linguistics, but that's only because Older Daughter didn't send them as requested. (Yeah, yeah, slackers always think they have a good excuse.)

Yesterday's HAP 101 discussion is still on my mind, in particular the interestingly-diagnostic reactions of people to that Alan Watts video and its Sagan-like wisdom that "Billions of years ago you were a Big Bang." (Carl's version: "We're starstuff, pondering the stars.") Point is, we're still bangin'... We are the universe, the cosmic "process" turned back on itself in wonder, pondering its destiny and (some of us) dreaming of something marvelous waiting to happen.

Interestingly diagnostic, I say, because some of us thrill to that cosmic perspective while others wrinkle their faces and complain that it somehow shrinks or demeans us to acknowledge our continuity with all those stars and the spaces between them, and all the bugs beneath our feet and the microbes beneath our skin, etc.

Some resonate to Alan's and Carl's reassurance that when our species travels to the stars we'll all be there. Others speak of slugs. Some seem to think that if we're "all of nature" we must be uncritically accepting and enthusiastic about its every detail. But if they were right about that, a course like ours would make no sense: why study happiness and seek an understanding of what we must change in outer and inner space to satisfy the conditions of our flourishing, if being all of nature means sinking into the block universe never to move again?

Nobody said so yesterday, but I'll bet some of the naysayers would echo Pascal: "the eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me."

Well, we don't know it's dead silent out there. SETI's at work, give it time. Meanwhile, we do know that with every passing day it gets a little less silent in rippling rings of radio transmissions spreading out from our ground zero. (Look at that Contact opening again.) Maybe our destiny, or our choice, will be to follow them.

One of my framing questions, for the next segment of our course: are Buddhists (or stoic buddhist pragmatist cherrypickers) more likely, or less, to undertake the initiative required to propel our next big species-elevating adventure? Once you've renounced a Self, will you still engineer rocketships and dream of exploration? I used to think clearly not, now I'm not so sure. Neil Tyson seems more the type to push the envelope on space exploration, and he seems the opposite in temper from (say) a Thich Nhat Hanh. But we'll see.

In any case, "you are here" means not only that we hang suspended in a sunbeam, but that we are entitled to feel at home in the universe. That, to me, is the feeling (and the image) of happiness.

And so is a caffeine and donut-fueled road trip. Ready or not, Older Daughter, here I come.

1 comment:

  1. NASA released an updated version of the "pale blue dot" taken from Cassini recently. It's more of a bright blue dot, but it is well framed by Saturn's rings. Definitely worth a look.