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Go Figure

there is no end to the beginning

I do not know what makes me want to figure things out.

In my early teens I was reading astronomy and what then passed for cosmology and I can remember looking something up in our Funk and Wagnells and coming to a tricky Russian name and having a hard time with it and I remember saying to myself: “never mind the names, just try to understand.” Understand what? It has on and off haunted me my whole life and recently I stumbled on Jim Holt’s book and TED talk on the topic why is there something rather than nothing. Ah! My kind of book.

In the decades in between I kept reading on whatever I thought would bring some insight. I knew of the big bang and it was a big deal. The the shootings. I had been to Sandy Hook, Connecticut several times to a little shop that could make any of the custom stuff I needed for the photographic printing I was doing. Then after the shooting I found that my niece’s husband, a wonderful young pastor, was councling some of the first responders. He was shaken quite badly. God just could not allow such things. And then I was shaken when I learned about the radio personalities that insisted it never happened, that one of the murdered young girls had been seen alive, and the on-going pounding on the survivors who were suffering the ausault by radio, internet and phone after they had burried their loved ones, especially their young children.

Perhaps it is going back too far, but I learned that we are all mostly cut from the same cloth. Black or white or in between. Tall, short different bone structure but all of us are descended from small bands of Africans who migrated north 50,000 years ago and the color of our skin was determined by how far north our ancestors had migrated. Too far and not enough sun and pigment in the skin stops the creation of vitamin D. That’s it. Evolution took care of us so the cloth changed color to allow us to survive.

We lived as hunter-gatherers (a good account is The Old Way. H in his book Sapiens figures that agriculture from around 10,000 BCE was the worst thing that happened to mankind. A less varied diet. A breakup of family-like tribes with well worked-out social structures leaving a few to work the fields while the rest wandered off to make all kinds of things happen.

I suspect it was the hunters, those that carried at least traces of the genes that drove them to the top of the tribal social structure and they built city-states and then empires and then industries and all along wared but now the tribes were much larger, the tools of war far more destructive and empires were created and destroyed. And I thought we had put it behind us until I started thinking about Vietnam and the second gulf war and the wreck we made of the middle-east, although we had many, many wreckers before us.


Is there nothing to occupy us but agression, money and power?

I carry in my head something called “the time-line” of the universe. All the major steps from the big bang to quarks, atoms, early stars, super-novae to fill in the elements in the periodic table, and the creation of trillions upon trillions of stars and galaxies and planets all from a singularity, an event that just happened. Almost out of nothing, an event lasting a trillionith of a trillionith....of a second in a space comparably small and I keep saying over and over to myself what the hell brought this on. No physisist knows. Maybe “god” did it but though history the designation “god” was given to whatever we did not understand. But a name does not create understanding, it’s just a name.

But however you figure it happened, what happened, namely us, sentient, conscious beings make me with three engineering degrees (and lots of physics) think with my jaw dropped when I contemplate what it is that can happen in my head. I sat in my otolaranologist’s office and studied the detailed diagram posted on the wall of how the rough design of my hearing mechanisms and I am floored by the creativity and elegance that lets young people hear the motion of air molecules due to the heat in the air and lets me hear symphonies. And eyes....well I have been a photographer for the past almost 40 years. How and why? The creativity and beauty that is possible and is done in certain places and times while in other places cruelity, genocide, rampant stupidity totally unaware of joy and beauty and I feel like I a going to explode as our “leaders” mangle their response to this virus and the president will have the blood of tens of thousands on his hands and not have a clue. Go figure.

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