Thursday, 7 January 2010

And Now, The Bigger Picture...

As much as I despair over our current constitutional quandaries, I must never forget how small we all are. The sheer fact of our human minuteness is frightening to us, but it's also beautiful to behold from above.

John Lennon wrote this song when he was at his very lowest, his smallest. That such gorgeousness can flow out of such pain is a particularly important truth for me right now.



CanuckRover said...

I have a print out of 'pale blue dot' hanging on my office wall for that very reason. Calms me down whenever something, or someone, gets me going.

Sir Francis said...

Calms me down...

Yes. But it's interesting how so many people who are quite content with, even proud of, their terrestrial insignificance—which they can redeem—will panic at the thought of their cosmological insignificance—which they cannot.

Ti-Guy said...

All that reminds of is that there's a big, spectacular universe out there and we're stuck on this lousy little planet with right wing horrors and will be...forever.

Anonymous said...

will panic at the thought of their cosmological insignificance

Yes, I think I know what you mean, the terror of confronting the incomprehensible vastness of existence on the road away from the childish comfort of a cosy divine priority and centrality. But is there not a sense in which the modern, educated sceptic, dead-ended by years of materialism, self-criticism and doubt, can be likewise discombobulated by the prospect that he actually may have a cosmological significance?

Sir Francis said...

But is there not a sense in which the modern, educated sceptic...can be likewise discombobulated by the prospect that he actually may have a cosmological significance?

Absolutely, but that significance is never what he or she (or we) would wish it to be, no?

Who among even the most devout of us is truly in possession of a faith that is not, at heart, just an immanentisation of the eschaton?

The Greeks said everything best. I recall an apposite (freely translated) passage from Medea:

A life is a journey into the darkness,
Where only the gods can find the way;
For what no man dares believe,
The gods can bring about.

Catelli said...

Speaking as a sceptic...

I find the size of the measurable universe to be so vast it renders the concept of a Divine to be cosmologically insignificant.

If the measured acceleration of the universe holds out, billions of years later our galaxy will be all alone. The rest of the universe will be so far away that its energies no longer reach us. Hubble telescopes will peer out and see only pure cold darkness. If a type of intelligence still exists with our current conceptual abilities, how will they square their much smaller universe with the concept of a divine?

Sir Francis said... will they square their much smaller universe with the concept of a divine?

Why, they'll simply invent a divinity small enough to fit their universe, my friend. They need only tailor their god to the average size of what we see in North America's Divine Top Ten--such as Moloch, Baal, Mammon, and so on.

Anonymous said...


Thank-you. The gift of a good quote deserves one in return and I thought you might enjoy this one from David Berlinski. It's a bit OT in that it comes out of the religion/science wars, but I think of it whenever I see one of those mesmerizing pictures from Hubble. I'm betting it might be enjoyed by a brilliant, erudite defender of the remnant who was frightened by DisneyWorld and uplifted by the Stations of the Cross at the age of five. :-)

"We seem to live our lives in perfect indifference to the Standard Model of particle physics, the world we inhabit nor only remote from the world it describes but different in detail, thank God."

"Over there, fields are pregnant with latent energy, particles flicker into existence and disappear, things are entangled, and no one can quite tell what is possible and what is actual, what is here and what is there, what is now and what was then. Nothing is stable. Great impassive symmetries are in control, as vacant and unchanging as the eye of Vishnu. Where they come from, no one knows. Time and space contract into some sort of agitated quantum foam. Nothing is continuous. Nothing stays the same for long except the electrons, and they are identical, like porcelain Chinese soldiers. A pointless frenzy prevails throughout."

"Over here, space and time are stable and continuous. Matter is what it is and energy does what it does. There are solid and enduring shapes and forms. There are no controlling symmetries. The sun is largely the same sun now that it was four thousand years ago when it baked the Egyptian deserts. Changes appear slowly, but even when rapid, they appear in stable patterns. There is dazzling variety throughout. The great river of time flows forward. We anticipate the future, but we remember the past. We begin knowing we will end."

"The God of the Gaps may now be invited to comment--strictly as an outside observor, of course. He is addressing us. And this is what He has to say: You have no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic and social world in which you live could ever have arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles."

"It is like imagining sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon."

Sir Francis said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the quotation and took it as a "gift". A true gift never deserves (nor expects) anything in return, though; that's the difference between a gift and a sale, and it's why we use the word "gratuitous".

Thanks so much for that fantastic passage from Berlinski. It put me in mind of the Greeks, again. It gave me an excuse to spend some time with Heraclitus. That was a gift.

liberal supporter said...


Yes. Right.

Can we have your liver then?

theo said...

This place gives me solace on a regular basis:

and coincidentally, so do the songs of John Lennon.

Both can make me cry and yet, feel joy in my heart.