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Can’t sleep. Guess spending most of the last month in a mild doze has taken up all the sleep for a while. I’ll have to get at least a little though, stuff to do tomorrow and I need to get something vaguely resembling a stable sleep cycle by next week. I know how to fix this, wine & philosophy. I even have some chocolate if things get desperate.

Here’s a thought that blows my mind. The universe is 13.7 billion years old, and 48 billion light years in diameter. This means that, averaging since the beginning of time, the distance between the far edges of the universe grows at nearly twice the speed of light. Yet no object can move faster than light relative to any other object.

What’s happening is that spacetime itself is expanding. This is a difficult concept to wrap my head around, and I’m still not sure I get it, so bear with me. The usual simile I’ve read is a balloon with dots on it. As the balloon inflates and expands, the dots spread farther apart. In the same way, galaxies spread farther apart as spacetime expands. In every direction at once. I’m starting to get a headache again.  Read the rest of this entry

There’s a point at the fulcrum that does not move.

I suppose I’m still feeling introspective. I looked at the latest Zen Pencils and found a Sylvia Plath quote that I could deeply relate to. Go take a look at it.

I’m not familiar with the fig tree analogy, though, I usually heard about it as a hallway filled with doors, all open and filled with opportunity and just waiting for you to step through.

It always seemed appropriate to me, when I took it to its logical conclusion. You have all these doors, but you don’t really know what’s behind them until you step through. You don’t know what other doors may be through there, or what horrors may be hidden within that pleasant-looking room. You’re never sure how far you can go before you reach a dead end, and you can never be certain which doors will be locked while you’re exploring a particular room.  Read the rest of this entry

Forged in the heart of a star

In my last post I mentioned our connection to the stars and the universe, and I’ve been thinking about that some more. Consider for a moment that every atom that makes up your body was part of a star once. Think about some of the implications.

There’s a young Earth creationist group whose favorite tactic is the phrase “Were you there?” They train children to ask this question in schools, at museums, anytime someone talks about something happening millions of years ago. It’s every bit as childish and annoying as you imagine, all the irritation of a four year old repeatedly asking “why?” with none of the actual curiosity.

The thing is, from a certain point of view it’s a perfectly honest answer to say “Yes”. Yes, I was there when the dinosaurs died out, and so were you. The atoms that make up my body were already here, in the air, the ground, the oceans, and the plants and animals, even in the dinosaurs themselves. Scattered across the world, unbinding from one molecule and binding into another, and passing down through the ages until the time when, for a brief while, they would come together to form me. The same is true of you and everyone else who’s ever lived. Read the rest of this entry

Home Sweet Home

Bad Astronomy featured this pic today, which came from the ESA spacecraft Rosetta.

Stunning image of planet Earth

Crescent Earth from 633,000 km away.

Breathtaking, isn’t it? For all the wonders of this vast universe, there are few sights as beautiful as our home. The little water world that’s named, with seeming irony, after dirt, and is home to all the life we’ve ever found. It’s lovely to see it as a place with phases like the moon, to challenge our usual perception. Read the rest of this entry

No regrets?

I often hear people speak about living with no regrets, and when I actually stop to think about it, I wonder what they mean by that. See, from my point of view I can only see three ways to live without regrets, all of which result in a life I wouldn’t want to live in the first place.

First, I could live totally alone and never interact with people. Why bother? Even at my most reclusive times, I can only bear to be alone for so long.

Second, I could never seriously consider the long-term effects of my actions on other people. Never ponder the ripples I leave in my wake as I move through the world. As some famous dead guy once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Third, I could just not care. Just live without empathy or compassion. Perhaps I could enjoy a life such as that, certainly many people seem to enjoy it. But appearances often deceive, and I suspect many of them are neither as callous nor as happy as they appear. While there are certainly simple pleasures to be had, all the greatest joys of my life come from the warmth and love I share with those closest to me.

If you interact with people, you will occasionally hurt them. If you consider your life and your actions, you will notice this. If you care about the pain of others, sooner or later you will pick up some regrets. And really, that’s ok. We’re imperfect beings in an imperfect world, doing the best we can with what we have.

See the thing is, I don’t think most people who speak of living without regrets mean the same thing the phrase brings to my mind. I see a thousand little regrets everywhere, swimming around the great big leviathan regrets like pilot fish around a shark. I think to most, the phrase means not to never have regrets, but not to dwell on them. Not to let them weigh you down until you drown in that sea. There’s certainly something sensible about that.

What does “no regrets” mean to you?

What do you want out of life?

I’ve never known what I wanted out of life, in fact the question never really made sense to me. Life isn’t something I chose to get into for some sort of goal, or purpose, it was thrust upon me unasked-for before I knew anything about anything. Literally.

Look, I know that there is a universe outside of my personal perception, vast beyond proper imagining, next to which I am infinitely small. But in a very real way, at least from my point of view, my life is literally everything. You might as well ask what I want out of the whole universe.

To consider the grand scale of existence, the countless wonders it contains, and ask only what someone wants out of it seems petty, narrow minded and missing the point. It puts me to mind of a person having inherited a vast collection of beautiful works of art and journals containing first-hand accounts of major historical events and their complete family tree for the last thousand years, and only wanting to know “How much can I sell it for?”

I suppose that provides a simple, but woefully incomplete, answer for what I want more of in my life: knowledge and beauty. Not necessarily in that order, and mingled together as much as possible.

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