POV Or Mine
Frederick Wm. Zackel
was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These
continually recurred, but I was unable
to resolve them."
Monster speaks for us all.
at these dots:
do you think you see?
not the Big Dipper.
is just dots on a page.
Big Dipper is a constellation that apparently fits the pattern of
a long-handled cup. Runaway slaves on the American Underground Railroad
called it "the Drinking Gourd" because the two "pointer" stars will
show you Polaris, the North Star. Follow the Drinking Gourd and
cross the river and you were in Ohio and safe!
Big Dipper constellation is part of Ursa Major, part of the Great
Bear Constellation, and what stories are we retelling each time
we say that? The Iroquois Indians said the Great Bear is chased
every season by hunters. Their arrows Strike the Great Bear; he
bleeds; the blood flows from the Big Dipper onto the trees of autumn,
turning the leaves red and orange.
Western Europe for a thousand years it was called Charles' Wain,
while it is a corruption of "churl's wagon." A "churl" was a peasant,
a farmer, and the Big Dipper looks like a farmer's wagon.
looked up in the sky and wrote in his Divine Comedy that Charles'
Wain was a symbol for the Holy Roman Church. Saint Francis of Assisi
was one wheel driving the Church, while Saint Dominic (who energized
the Inquisition) was the other wheel.
is a pattern arbitrarily imposed upon a random collection of stars.
We call it a constellation because we "see" a pattern within it,
a "design" within, a "story" within. As James Joyce said about his
own education, "I have learnt to arrange things in such a way that
they become easy to survey and judge."
is an illusion. The Big Dipper, for instance, will have disappeared
in 100,000 years.
Durrell in Balthazar wrote, "We live by selected fictions."
are "selected fictions." Those familiar patterns are a product of
earthly perspective. They are apparent constructions. What you select
reveals your values and priorities.
the seven bright stars that make up Ursa Major occupy a smallish
Chunk of space, a cube of space that is six parsecs wide by ten
parsecs wide. To Human minds, they are "The Big Dipper" or "Ursa
Major" or . . . But there are five hundred "lights" visible within
that cluster of space, and most of them are galaxies. On a good
night an amateur astronomer with a decent telescope can see two
hundred of them.
the stars of Ursa Major can point toward the North Star is as relative
(that is, as "arbitrary") as modern physics has been since Albert
Einstein first put pen in hand.
and other cosmic objects are randomly situated in the vast emptiness
of space. On a good night an amateur astronomer with a decent telescope
can see 10,000 galaxies.
crave order. We grasp at straws, or even astrology, for the stars
might hold the answers to our destiny.
the ancient Egyptians, the stars in the heavens were the Imperishables.
From any cosmic standpoint, it is a remarkable arrogance to assume
that these Stellar objects and their relative positioning were meant
solely to read in these Terra-centric ways.
those same cosmic standpoints, the dervish's words to Candide and
his friends reverberate most powerfully: What does the captain of
the galleon care about the rats in the belly of the ship?
was actually not alone. The first Chinese Wang Ch'ung thought Heaven
could not be concerned with a human. He thought Heaven saw a human
as an ant in a crack or as a flea on a robe. In Candide, one is
also reminded of the Chinese creation myth of P'an-ku. When P'an-ku
dies, after having divided heaven and earth with an ax, his body
parts form the rest of the universe. Humans and animals are formed
from his body lice.
breed faith in a repeatable universe. If it happened once, it will
happen again and again. Hey, the sun came up yesterday, it came
up this morning, and it'll come up tomorrow.
the ancient Chinese, life was cyclical, as befits a culture centered
around agriculture and seasonal changes. The Sixties slogan "What
goes around comes around" is such a cyclical point of view of Life,
the Universe, and everything.
the Christian point of view, Life is not fair. The implication is
that a conclusion is coming, a Judgment Day, when all things will
be "made" fair.
some, there is not cause and effect. This "life" is an unfolding
of continuity and connection.
sense is what fits the available facts. It is convenient models
that fit the observable facts. Common sense offers a unified perspective.
And what violates common sense is terribly wrong and must be put
is, common sense can become a tyrant. Common sense can become dogma.
Albert Einstein said, "Common sense is the deposit of prejudice
laid down in the mind before the age of eighteen."
oaths are no laughing matter and they serve specific purposes. They
are precisely targeted to nab certain points of views that are opposed
the McCarthy era, communist spies would have no qualms about signing
loyalty oaths; their goal was to infiltrate the organization.
oaths are designed to publicly identify those individuals whose
scruples would not let them sign on to the proscribed loyalties.
That is, those individuals who have principles "higher" than the
group's common denominator beliefs need to be identified and then
groups cannot function as they see their function is without at
least the tacit consent of every individual in that group.
consent does not mean blind obedience, of course. One is not betrayed
by one's enemies, but one's family, friends, and loved ones. Groups
are not betrayed by their enemies, but from within. Pogo said, "We
have met the enemy and he is us." J. Edgar Hoover never stopped
squeaking about "the enemy within." (Although he was disingenuous
when he named them.)
course the Romans had a saying about tacit consent. "Consensus facit
legem." General consent makes law.
consent. In December, 1995, the government of Italy passed a law
that said all Italians over the age of sixteen will be assumed to
have given their "tacit consent" for their organs are to be used
for transplant following death unless specifically they state otherwise.
This is similar to what other European countries--Norway, Denmark,
Switzerland, Austria, for instance, already have on the books.
writer writes the same book someone else has written. After all,
it's been done, right? Common sense tells us that. Writers, however,
do write in opposition to other writers. "He got it wrong; I'm gonna
tell it right."
are written in opposition to other texts, too. They are written
in opposition to the master narrative, too.
freedom of speech, as is said nowadays, is actually freedom to publish.
If you are denied publication, you are denied freedom to speak.
The master narrative (i.e., the Establishment) decides what gets
don't produce the master narrative; it produces us.
you call the master narrative "ideology," you then get: "We don't
produce ideology; ideology produces us."
you read a text, ask yourself how successful is the hero. Does he
defeat all his enemies? Who are his enemies? What is "the success
ethic" the hero embodies?
writer writes what s/he wants to read.
Let's play reverse psychology.
is covered up here?
can become privileged above all others. A group of stories can become
so privileged that they form a canon of stories. A canon become
privileged above all others. Over time it may even calcify.
Narratives are no different.
scheme for the Cosmos ruled for a thousand years. With Ptolemy's
charts by his side, Christopher Columbus collided with the Americas.
Ptolemy underestimated the circumference of the earth. The Chinese,
however, knew the earth was flat.
Copernicus wrote his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium or The
Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs in 1543. His heliocentric view of
the universe posited our sun as the center of the universe. Placing
the sun at the center of heaven thus created the Scientific Revolution.
Kepler defended Copernicus' theories after his death by saying Copernicus
was only "philosophizing" and "not composing a myth." Martin Luther,
on the other hand, pointed out that "upstart astrologer" Copernicus
was obviously "a fool." After all, Luther pointed out, "Joshua commanded
the sun to stand still, and not the earth," at the battle for Jericho.
Galilei (1564-1642) was stifled by Pope Urban VIII more in a response
to the Protestant Reformation than for threatening orthodoxy. Some
clergy refused to look through his telescope because they refused
to have their beliefs destroyed. We forget he was punished by the
Church for believing that the sun was the immobile center of the
universe. We forget he too was wrong. The sun isn't the
center of the universe.
the same token, the traditional Japanese scholars had no problem
with Copernicus' heliocentric universe. They believed in the Sungod,
and of course He was the center of the universe.
authorities (whoever they may be) have always had a vested interest
in traditional values. Their continuance in office is always directly
related to accepted points of view. The Hippocratic oath's main
purpose is to guard the physician's secrets from the paying public.
most of the last twenty centuries Christian authorities hid behind
while the lower classes spoke the vernacular. Only those who spoke
Latin could even dream of attending college. The lower classes were
kept from bettering themselves because college was impossible without
a knowledge of Latin. The lectures were given only in Latin. Our
culture's basic master-slave relationship is even visible here:
We talk of studying "liberal arts," and that comes from the Latin
or "free man." The word "vernacular" comes from the Latin word "vernaculus"
which in turn comes from "verna," and means "a home-born slave."
received the first copy of his book on his deathbed. The Roman church
"forgave" him of his sin and lifted its "ban" on his book in 1835.
At that same moment in 1835 the Church also lifted its "ban" on
Galileo Galilei's work. Galileo would not be "forgiven" until 1979.
Copernicus, the center of the earth was the center of the universe.
He changed the coordinate system. After Einstein, all coordinate
systems are suddenly equally good.
the proton. If the atom is the universe, the proton is the center
of that universe. In the Ptolemaic or geocentric theory of the universe,
the earth is the center of the universe.
our conception of the atomic structure itself is wrong, itself "a
selected fiction" that, while convenient and comfortable for us
and our beliefs, bares no resemblance to its actual structure. Perhaps
we are incapable of imagining any atomic structure EXCEPT one having
some proton at the center of the universe.
wander on the margins of the atom. Those on the margins suffer the
most; they have the least to gain and the most to lose. Loyalty
to the center of the Story (i.e., the "author-ities") is at its
weakest here on the margins.
was a whore who lived and worked within the walls of Jericho itself.
Her identity was imposed upon her by her society and its Master
Story. That she was positioned by her society and its Master Story
within the actual mud walls of Jericho tells us she lived on the
"Joshua fit the battle of Jericho," he won.
the walls came tumblin' down."
in his Divine Comedy places Rahab the Whore in Heaven, after all
she did for Joshua.
the introductory moments of the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker
grouses about his home planet, saying, "If there is a center to
the universe, this is the furthest from it."
are 100 billion galaxies. Each has on the average 100 billion stars.
The site of the Big Bang was the Center of the Universe. As the
universe expands, as all stellar objects move away from each other,
the "center" shifts. The center does not hold.
from the perspective of 100 billion galaxies, that Yahweh would
pick an ordinary galaxy within an ordinary super cluster of galaxies,
that He would travel out to an ordinary spiral arm of that galaxy
and pick a rather ordinary solar system, and then tag a clan of
seminomadics on the margins of a proto-agricultural society and
call them His Chosen People . . .
considering that these Jews get the back of History's Hand for twenty
centuries, and that this assault is then followed by the Nazi Holocaust
where six million Jews are deliberately murdered because they are
God's Chosen People.
the Touch have been on some other peoples?
roads led to Rome.
requires all mosques face Mecca.
sits at the center of your universe?
human history has been a history of man taking his rightful place
in the universe. Unfortunately humanity seems to have assumed it
sits at the head of the table. We can read the words of Jesus Christ--"He
would be first shall be last; he who shall be last shall be first"--as
we must also point out that in 1633 Galileo Galilei was forced by
the Roman Catholic Inquisition to repudiate the Copernican conception
that the solar system has the sun and not the earth at its center.
kicked man out of the center of the universe, a fictional point
of view held for almost twenty centuries. It would take another
hundred years for the proof to be accepted.
of the curious spin-offs of Copernican theory was that not just
Heaven, but Hell also had to move elsewhere. One theologian in 1714
said Hell was located
in the center of the sun! For many Nineteenth century wags, Hell
was not just in London, but the city itself.
came Johannes Kepler's clockwork universe. Kepler may have been
the earliest to suggest "the celestial machine is not so much of
a divine organization but rather a clockwork" in 1600. But Isaac
Newton (with his elliptical orbits) and Descartes also agreed with
the clockwork universe.
Mumford said the clock was the first automatic machine and as such
it foreshadowed the dictatorship of the machine over man. It did
a worse number on God.
God Kiumbi is the Supreme Being in the northern half of East Africa;
he is continuously creating anew. He has work today that must be
done. He'll be here tomorrow and the next day.
our clockwork universe, God is the perfect clockmaker. Once He set
the universe ticking in its divine motion, He left it alone, and
it had a mechanical life of its own. The universe runs like a clock
because its internal working are governed by universal rules for
all time. God's job was done. He stepped back. He is still receding.
you synchronize your watches, time is money.
S. Eliot's "Timekept City" is too secular. There is no time for
God within its time and space. Who needs him now?
year is 225 million years, and that's how long it takes our sun
to circle the Milky Way once.
want to know how the universe is put together. We reject Chaos.
We demand design. We want a beginning, a middle and an end.
the Tu'chueh, the Turkish peoples who settled in Mongolia from the
Fourth century to the Tenth, the universe came in many levels. The
bottom nine were the underworld, and the top seventeen form the
realm of light, or heaven. Humanity sits between heaven and hell
for the Blue Turks, too. They called themselves the Blue Turks,
or Kok Turk, and they were the representatives of the blue sky here
on earth. The Winnebago Indians of Southern Wisconsin, for instance,
also had a layered universe. And how different are these from Dante's
The Divine Comedy's
division of heaven and hell in concentric circles?
the beginning was the Word. But God is silent; He keeps receding
like a hairline or a glacier. We chase Him, but we can't catch Him.
leads to the end of the universe. The last of our cosmos will be
a cold hissing sound, like a television set when no station is sending
its signal, and it will be transmitted forever. Think of the flat
line of a heart monitor. And isn't that a scary way to contemplate
French poet Charles Baudelaire said about the devil, "Few believe.
But his smell is everywhere."
the contrary, from the vantage point of 100 billion galaxies, a
believer could argue that the devil is being punished for his arrogance
and his insolence by being sent to "this prison earth." Living among
us may be living in hell.
on your back south of the equator and stare into the stars after
. . . and (probably) you are facing the center of the Milky Way
galaxy. If you dig your nails into the earth and scream, you have
now discovered what a bug on the windshield feels like.
are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone. There are "ten to the
22nd power" stars in the known universe.
is everything. Back in 1608 the Dutch tried keeping the newly invented
telescope a state secret. Apollo 8 was the first to glimpse the
full view of planet Earth. Yet, from space, the planet Earth has
no "central" focal point.
1591 a Dominican monk, Giordano Bruno, wrote "De immenso et innumeabilis
seu de universo et mundis," which is more lyrical in Latin than
English. Three years later he came out in public support of the
Copernican point of view on the universe and was promptly seized
by the Vatican. He was found guilty of apostasy (that is, guilty
of the renunciation of his religion) because he believed (among
other errors) that there were in this "infinite" universe "countless
suns" around which revolved "numberless earths no worse than this
one and no less inhabited." In 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned at
the stake in Rome.
forgive, but I can understand the Holy Office of the Church (AKA
the Inquisition) trying to cope with the impact of Bruno's words.
In the face of a thousand million stars in the average galaxy, and
a thousand million galaxies in the known universe, I too find it
difficult imagining a personal god who knows and cares about
me and my particular destiny.
French mathematician Blaise Pascal contemplated Bruno's words and
wrote, "The eternal silence of those infinite spaces strikes me
with terror." Pascal became a lifelong and passionate Christian
. . . after he deliberately and consciously theorized that believing
in God was better than being an atheist since no one will know for
sure until death and because the rewards are infinite in heaven
if there is a God.
years later Galileo Galilei was silenced by the same Cardinal Roberto
Bellarmine as Giordano Bruno. Not until 1737 was Galileo Galilei
finally accorded a Christian burial. Not until 1992 was he absolved
of his heresy by the Church.
Bruno's poetic voice is missed. We should name a space shuttle after
him. Or at least name a starship cousin to the Enterprise.
we earthlings are insignificant. The Milky Way is simply one of
a hundred billion galaxies. We sit out on the edge of one of its
arms, the Orion Arm, and the center of our galaxy is thirty thousand
lights years away. Our sun circles the center every
220 million years. One astrophysical joke says that Earth is the
Cleveland of the Milky Way. I live twenty-five miles south of Toledo,
surrounded by cornfields. Imagine my dismay.
center of our galaxy bulges; most of it appears to be older stars,
some perhaps as old as the universe itself. Dust clouds obscure
the center. Some physicists have suggested there is a massive black
hole at the center that is slowly "eating" our galaxy.
rats in the bilge are nearer their Creator than we are in our superstring
television syndicated series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine posits humanity's
importance by placing it as the operator of a reststop on a wormhole's
off-ramps near the back waters of our galaxy. The show struggled
in the ratings. We don't like seeing Humanity's Place in the Universe
reduced to Gas Jockey and Company.
Spielberg movie E. T. : The Extra-terrestrial was the most successful
movie ever made for a dozen-odd years, until it was displaced from
the top of the heap by Spielberg's Jurassic Park.
movie Jurassic Park is more than a remake of Frankenstein, more
than a remake of Godzilla, more than a variation on St. George slaying
the Dragon. The movie is instructive. Once Dinosaurs ruled the world.
Now Man rules the world.
recreate "those earlier masters of the universe" and place them
in a closed system with us as visitors to their zoo, then break
the zoo open and see how we survive and escape is truly a remarkable
Park posits dinosaurs in direct confrontation with the modern world.
Once dinosaurs were King of the Hill, the proton at the center of
the nucleus. Now, humanity is the King, the proton at the center.
Humanity wants to view what else stood at the center and how humanity
would fare up against it in a contest.
so vain . . .
probably think this cosmos's about us!
sidebar to the story exists. If evolution is self-generating, if
evolution proceeds in a self-regulating pattern, if dinosaurs are
a natural step in that evolutionary progression, and if it took
an asteroid five miles in diameter to wipe the dinosaurs
a universe that looks like it might be filled with hundreds of millions
of planets capable of evolving life, are the majority of those planets
Jurassic Parks filled to the gunwales
with dinosaurs evolving?
enough time, those dinosaurs would have evolved into sentient beings
who, given enough time, could learn to manipulate their environment.
Given enough time, those dinosaur sentients could reach for the
E.T., The Raptor!
child's voice: "They're here!"
Master Narrative drives us. Maybe not deliberately or consciously,
but perhaps to aid our progress.
lie at the heart of our view of the cosmos.
vector mathematics, a vector is magnitude plus direction. (Magnitude
is a length, a distance.) Vector math says no vector is inevitable,
that other vectors can add or subtract elements, and thus alter
the first vector. Outside forces can displace our vectors,
cause us to stray from the course we think we're on.
just a single point on the vector of America's Master Story. I am
merely noticing some coordinates, plotting some points of our location
in space and time.
goal is to cluster some events, some concepts, some notions, some
points of view, and some curiosities, and possibly suggest that
these clusters should create new links with each other.
essence, I hope to show our point of view, our Master Story, as
a vector. To show where our Master Story is and how fast it's going.
That what we call history is the sheer mass of our Master Story
over a period of time.
not doubt that I may be wrong in many of my plotting. But perhaps
my chartings can be of service to the Master Story.
we can notice the path of our drifting vessel. Perhaps we can see
how we've been blown by the winds. Perhaps we can fashion a rudder
or some sails. Perhaps we can improve our navigation.
are forces to be reckoned with.
Planck pointed out: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by
its opponents but because its opponents die, and a new generation
grows up that is familiar with it."
became popular among the English and their colonies after 1711.
In briefest terms, deism states that, since the clockwork universe
works so well, God set it into motion and must exist. Therefore,
there's no need for formal religious exercise. Nowadays less than
4 percent of Great Britain actively participate in the state religious
God died in the Eighteenth century, in the Age of Reason. Some,
like Albert Camus, say God died with Louis XVI in the French revolution.
I think God died much earlier with the publication of Jonathan Swift's
Travels parallels Dante's journey in The Divine Comedy, but it is
a journey through a cosmos without God. We see men who are littler
than us and men who are bigger than us. In the Third Book we see
an Earth where Reason as Science is exalted, and in the Fourth Book
we see a Heaven without God. There is no God in the universe of
the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos, no Baptism and only Original Sin,
and Lemuel Gulliver finds no escape when he sails away in a canoe
made from Yahoo skins. That's why he ends his days desperately struggling
his sanity in a universe Edvard Munch visualized. The Holocaust
with its lampshades of human skin and its gold bars from human mouths
was prophesied by the Great Dean of Saint Patrick's.
the same token, the Age of Reason never had a chance. Right from
the beginning it was sabotaged by Gulliver's Travels. Then it was
undermined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's dreams of Mariners and Mongols
and lesbian vampires. Poe drove a stake through its heart, then
wandered off, while Reason itself writhed and died in a delirium.
Ancient Mariner wears an albatross around his neck. Earlier, he
watched it fly past his ship; "it was an immortal soul." And he
killed it with an arrow in the heart, just as secular humanism has
bumped off God Himself. Just as superstitions still weigh
us down, still mock our wills and our words, still curse us, so
too a ghost haunts us. The word "ghost" goes back to the Old English
"gaste," which means "soul, spirit or demon," all of which is akin
to the German "geist," which has an Indo-European base "gheizd-,"
which meant "to be excited or frightened," but all of these trace
back to the Sanskrit word "hed," which means to be angry. Ghosts
are angry; they resist being repressed. They want revenge.
is the secular expression of an immortal soul. The spin doctors
tried their best. But a ghost haunts us like a conscience. It is
a guilty conscience. And what is repressed most severely boomerangs
back to haunt us.
ghost of God Himself is not easily exorcised. He is a jealous god,
too. He will be avenged.
God died, so did the Devil.
cannot blame the Holocaust on him.
in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries, Europeans played with
pattern to show each of us our place in the Great Scheme of Things.
Each of us have our own roles to play, and collectively the human
race is a shipload of individuals all heading towards the Promised
Land. Some of us are natural leaders, and thus we correspond to
the Captain of the Ship. Some of us are there to help guide all
of us, and we correspond to the Navigator. Some of us are Men and
Women of Science, and our duty is to seek to improve the lives of
all of us.
of us represent Wealth, and some of us the Married State. Some of
us are Youth, and some of us represent Pleasure.
for instance, is a surgeon and then a ship's captain on his trips,
and thus Swift intends to show us how Gulliver loses his way on
his Journey through Life. His name "Gulliver" itself shows us how
Gullible he is and makes his journey more meaningful for us. In
a sense, we "see" more clearly how he has lost his way.
allegory still works. We still find interest in that same story
set-up. Think of . . . Gilligan's Island. It's the story of the
Minnow and its castaways. Gilligan the navigator, the Captain, the
Movie Star, the Millionaire and His Wife, the Professor and the
the series is easy. But its 98 episodes are the most viewed TV series
in the history of the world. We still should ask ourselves why this
particular story appealed to its audience. Why was it needed?
and Gulliver. The stories are different, but the allegory is still
framed the same. What does the framework offer us?
Island is the most syndicated TV show in history. More episodes
of it have been seen by more people than any other television show.
Yet most fans of the show would tell you that the most disappointing
moments were those moments when the castaways were rescued and how
their lives were changed after rescue. The audience cared about
the characters because they were lost in time and space,
because they were removed from the tyranny of Time's Arrow. Once
rescued, the castaways became like the rest of us and almost instantly
disappeared into the collective "us." In the final Return to Gilligan's
Island, the characters recognized their special place in fiction's
pantheon and moved back to the island and have not been
heard from since.
ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras was nearly killed by his fellow
countrymen for claiming that the moon was inert matter. The moon
has always had great story-value. It has thoroughly invested itself
in our Master Story. We cannot conceive of it not being a part of
our lives. It is an integral part of the human consciousness. It
represents magic and romance and the secrets of the night. It may
be the earliest primal memory our species has. Saying it is a rock
kills the thrill for the rest of us.
the moon has turned out to be a dusty rock. Like the famous apples
of Sodom and Gomorrah, the moon which has taunted and tantalized
us is no paradise.
that dust in our mouths? Is that the taste of ashes?
raced the Soviet Union to the moon, and once we got there, we (as
sat amazed and stunned by the real meaning of the concept "distance."
The moon was "far away."
made a few more missions, but mostly we sat on our haunches and
wondered if we really wanted to rush back. Neil Armstrong's famous
quote, "One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind," suddenly
told us how little the distance we actually had come and how far
God's Covenant with us (as we perceived it) extends.
the Challenger disaster made us realize there was no need to rush
out there, that being in a hurry was a shortcut to disaster, that
we should think this whole thing over and go step by step into the
Greatest Unknown This Side of Death.
saying that's as popular in America as any bumper sticker says that
a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We all
realize how important that first step was. But one corollary we've
since discovered from the space program is that a single step is
just a single step, that a thousand miles still stretches out ahead
of us, and that we have a long, strange trip ahead.
let us remember: China's Great Withdrawal in the 1450s said, be
stay home, take care of domestic problems. (Those domestic problems
were water projects, by the way. Water conservation projects, farmers'
irrigation, dam projects, Corps of Engineer stuff.) Because the
decision was left up to the bureaucrats, China never had its Great
Adventure, its time of Great Discovery.
have taken a single step. What stretches ahead of us (for all intents
and purposes) is still a journey of a thousand miles. The next true
quantum leap is leaving our own solar system.
a photograph of the Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin working with
his personal slide rule in orbit was used in connection with an
international auction of Soviet Space Paraphernalia. Unless you
personally have used a slide rule, you cannot appreciate how remarkable
the courage needed to trust splashdown to a slide rule. Thirty years
after Gargarin's magical mystery trip into space, my
children's Sega system had more space-age technology than Gargarin's
entire capsule. You should see their playtoys now.
our solar system exists as our testing area for robotics, aerospace
technology, our computers, whatever. Reaching the stars may be a
dream that only the global village of humanity can accomplish. No
single superpower can go it alone.
8 was the first to glimpse the full view of planet Earth. The photographs
that were taken then are the most important artifacts all of Humanity
has ever acquired on its collective journey through Time and Space.
For the first time in history we are looking at ourselves.
should treasure them above all others.
Larry Krasden's Grand Canyon, the character played by Kevin Klein
gazes out over the Grand Canyon, is awed by its grandeur, and dismayed
by humanity's own lack of progress.
has it wrong. In the same five million years since the Grand Canyon
began, the human brain has evolved from approximately 400 cubic
centimeters to about 1400 cubic centimeters, or about the size of
a dolphin's brain.
research on blood proteins of both humans and chimps suggest the
hominids appeared in Africa five million years ago. At that time
baboons outnumbered the future humanoids fifty to one. True, 99%
of the genes in chimpanzee ovum are still identical to the genetic
material in humans. Our DNA is less than one percent different than
with the chimp's. Yet our brains are four or five times
larger than the chimp's. There are the same number of neurons in
our brains as there are galaxies in the universe--100 Billion! Our
brains now have a memory capacity equal to a trillion bits of information,
or more than 500 sets of The Encyclopedia Britainica. The average
educated adult has a vocabulary of 100,000 words.
that 32,000 people still starve daily in the world is a criminal
shame. But that should not blind us to the fact that the world today
also supports 5.5 billion people, while the hunter-gatherer societies
of prehistory could support at the most 10 million. That obesity
is the most common nutritional problem in Western industrial societies
is both a criminal shame and a remarkable achievement.
popularized creation "Lucy" appeared in the final third of the gouging
of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is just river erosion. She
"mechanistic" perspective on the universe is old news, and perhaps
it may be obsolete. To some physicists, Hindu intuitions seem more
true, more accurate a representation of the "facts," on this quantum
level of subatomic particles that we know.
results of some recent research are very troubling: Can human consciousness
influence the random behavior of subatomic particles?
the universe is more a Great Thought than a Great Machine.
you an electron or a proton?
Carnival, order gives way to disorder. What is reticent breaks out
of itself and reveals its true personality in its unconscious voice.
Carnival scares the authorities, those who live in the center of
wrote, "The Center will not hold. " Where is the center of the universe?
gave us the V-chip to protect our kids from sex and violence on
television. If you think we need it, consider the other 96% of the
world. Last time I checked, the TV show Baywatch is shown in 142
countries. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times said it's "the
hottest ticket" shown on illegal satellite dishes in Shi'ite Iran.
1995 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation slashed American-made
TV shows from its primetime schedule. At the same time, the Canadian
senate sought to restrict the "split-runs" of American magazines.
(A "split-run" means the magazine is essentially American, with
some Canadian fillers added to "localize" the product.) American
corporations screamed that this is commercial protectionism and
threatened retaliation. But isn't this merely Canadians trying to
preserve their Master Story from being infiltrated, contaminated,
overwhelmed, and swamped by Our Master Story?
the other side of the world, Angolan teenagers have created their
own thriving rap singers. The lyrics are Angolan. But the dancing
is part traditional folk music and part Los Angeles street hip-hop.
All of it is electrified.
British Bronze Age has its roots in the Mycenaean culture around
the Aegean Sea, but cultural diffusion took centuries (maybe even
a millennium) to cross all of Europe. Homer wore plaid!
longest non-stop plane flight in the world is the fourteen hour
flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to New York, New York. Tonight
we can die from a disease that left its jungle home on the other
side of the world yesterday. Nowadays even a Boeing 777 is too slow.
If you have a satellite dish in your backyard, your rice paddy,
your savannah, hey, you got MTV and CNN.
pity for the Islamic fundamentalists. A thousand years ago they
were in balance with the rest of the world. These days they know
they have lost their place. They are powerless and impotent, desperate
souls tied to an obsolete mythology that can only prophesize their
own eventual extinction. They are the disinherited, the marginalized,
the disenfranchised of the global community. Their problem: They
have little to offer to the rest of the world. Their Master Story
offers no solace to Believers nor future solutions to Unbelievers.
They are fighting for a Way of Life that keeps them irrevocably
out of the mainstream.
divide all humanity into Believers and non-Believers, yet Sunni
Muslims stalk and ambush Shiite Muslims in and around Karachi mosques.
There is dissension there.
at the terrorists' targets in the United States: The World Trade
Center. Wall Street investment firms. The United Nations. A federal
building in the center of America's Bible Belt. (Whoops, that was
know them by their enemies.
use publishing metaphors, their Master Story has been rejected by
the New York publishers. Their Master Story came in over the transom
and became part of the slushpile of history. We should not laugh
when some anonymous Islamic fundamentalist complains that Michael
Jackson and Madonna should be tried for treason in an Islamic court.
His frustration is real and valid. Even the Unabomber wanted The
New York Times to print a book-length manuscript that told "his
side of the story."
story is being swamped by ours. Thus is explained the Islamic revolution
which swept over Iran during 1979, that caused Americans to be held
hostage by that nation, which spelled The End to Jimmy Carter's
most recent news about the shape of the cosmos is truly incredible.
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at UC-Berkeley,
the universe seems to be speeding up. It seems to be . . . accelerating.
The more distant a galaxy is, the faster it seems to recede. The
lab and its Australian counterparts measured the speed of supernovas,
those exploding stars. They say the universe is expanding. They
say the universe will expand forever. Then grow dark and cold.
day I am more like Pascal, who wrote, "The eternal silence of those
infinite spaces frightens me." His words haunt me, as does the night
and contrast the anguished complaint of Frankenstein's Monster with
the serene words of Black Elk, a medicine man from the Dakota Sioux
tribe: "Peace comes in the souls of men when they realize their
oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize
that the center of the universe is within each of us."
what's your point of view?