Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning to Live on "The Invisible Speck of Dust"

May 5th, 2009
Tuesday Morning 7:40 AM


This morning, as I fought the clock and the golfball size rain pellets that drop at the heads of the good people of Seattle, I was fortunate to make it to the airport on time. While I was standing in the security line I found myself reading news on my Blackberry, which I do excessively, like I am being trapped in some Pavlovian
condition/experiment. One random article about the new Mike Tyson Documentary caught my attention and in the process floored me. It went on to provide one of those ear to ear grins that I do when I read something captivating. Along with the grin, I had one of those eureka, finally moments. One of those, "why am I reading about the new Mike Tyson documentary and whoa did he just say that?", moments. The grin was provided by Tyson director James Toback in an interview with the ailing movie critic Roger Ebert. Toback was discussing Tyson's torment and the "illusion of immortality" that the famous boxer possessed during the prime of his professional life. From there Toback took the conversation to a whole new level and one that I wish more people would discuss in their day to day lives.

Look, if you have read this blog since its inception last December, then you know that my 37th and 38th year on this planet have been mostly about me coming to terms with the inevitable cycle of life and loss. Truly, I am fine with the subject. I learned to accept this aspect of life many, many years ago. In fact, it was when I was 11 and my Grandfather passed. I prepared for my own mortality both mentally and emotionally and I am better for that way of thinking. The more difficult aspect of loss, to me, is for the people that are still walking and breathing with us that, for one reason or another, choose not to share the precious moments we have left here on this rock in the cosmos. Toback summed this up perfectly in his conversation with Ebert:

"Because we say, well, yeah, but I'm not really dying because I'm going on to the next life. I don't mean just to be cute about it, but people like that need to look at the Hubble telescope photographs and say, this is where we live.

"We are in an invisible speck of dust. 'We' meaning our whole solar system but if you wanna narrow it down further, our planet, and if you wanna narrow it down further, ourselves. We are almost invisible specks of dust in this great huge, vast, expanding cosmos. And once you actually say, that is what's real, that's where we are, then you can say, well, then what purpose is there in life?

"Well, you're here so you make the best of it; you do what you can. You enjoy what you can, you create what you can and then when it's time you don't whine and you go. [Except] we're never conditioned to think that way. It's never taught. I mean, parents don't teach it, schools don't teach it, religions don't teach it. It's a kind of warped need to mythologize death into everything but what it actually is."


Funny how these little, meaningful quotes find you in certain times of life. Timing truly is everything. Currently, I have been struggling with not the loss via death that I dealt with over the past year, but more about the people that come in and out of the living, breathing life. The ones we know and touch and feel, not the one that we "think" we have a 50% chance of knowing where they are now. "Who knows?", I say. How presumptions of me to pretend that I know what happens. Our (my) primitive minds surely don't. The books we read, or "books" that certain folks cherish and memorize verbatim, do not provide tangible, practical answers. We are guessing folks and Toback nails this point and boils it down to the logical.

The ironic thing is that in the past two days, I have been reading on my Kindle Dr. Bart D. Ehrman's fabulous Jesus, Interrupted and I found myself viewing the most recent, startling images from the Hubble on my laptop while waiting at the airport yesterday. These two topics have always tweaked my interest and they have always made me question, "what do we really know about the historical aspects of the Western Civilization's "Great Book" and "what do we really know about the world where we live?"

Fact - We humans have only seen about 10% of the known Universe thus far. Without the Hubble that number would be a fraction of that. Think about that for a second.

Fact - The four men that allegedly "wrote" about the life of Christ have two different accounts of his birth and four different accounts of his death. They can not even agree on the town of his birth and the exact day of his death. I would think those would be two things that a historian would want to check their facts on. They can not even agree on which Kings and Leaders were in "office" at the times of those events. And why do we entrust so much into these famous words that these infamous historians wrote as, pardon the pun, as "Bible"? We just do, because its what we have been told.

So why are people so dogmatic about beliefs, why do they think they know the answers to what lives a trillion miles away or that something will happen to us after we pass? I think the appropriate answers are that people will always think what they want to believe (what they have been taught) and that we really do not know much about the Universe or about what happened or what didn't happen 2,000 plus years ago, but that we need to offer some sort of answer to keep us going.

Our human condition is about grappling with the past and traditions and finding a place on this speck of dust that is, can become, home for us (you). If the loss of this past year taught me anything, it is that our time is so minuscule that in a blink of an eye, three years goes by, and you wake up one day lucky that you are still here. Then you say - "now what am I going to do with this time and this life?" That poignant question is more for me then my readers. I sit here on the eve of my youngest daughters birthday, some times thinking I know less about myself then I did 5 years ago. Are those my experiences catching up to me? My uncertainties? Am I removing myself from traditions with each step and breath I take or am I constantly falling back into them, accepting the life I need, not the one I crave?

Luckily, the quest for answers continues.

Here is a link to Ebert's article with Toback that I mentioned. It's a good read and will make me want to see the Tyson documentary.


1 comment:

  1. This was one of my favorite blogs of yours to date. Such a needed reminder that we don't have all the answers, that we are a tiny part of a very large unoverse.