Monday, January 2, 2012

Turn The Page

The Earth turns about its axis, pirouetting through its orbit about the Sun, which swings its partners in their reel about the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which itself waltzes among its brethren in the local group, part of the march of galactic clusters that mark the expansion of the universe. The whole elaborate dance in choreographed by the forces of nature, by physics seen and unseen, in a whirl of motion so complex, it defies comprehension.

That we tie our short and relatively insignificant lives to the patterns and rhythms we see around us, from the rising and setting of the Sun, to the monthly sweep of the Moon through the sky, and the procession of our world in its orbit, is only natural. Through millions of years of evolution, as our distant ancestors worked their way up from simpler organisms, the change of seasons, tides, and environment drove their continued transformation into the species we are today. That we hearken back and carry around those predilections, that the changing Earth is both without and within, is a truly remarkable thing.

The calendar is a means to somehow make sense of our place on Earth, to allow us to anticipate what is to come. It is meant as a tracking device, a reminder, a measuring stick, to give us some sense of proportionality to the motion of our lives through the life of our living world. In recent decades, it has become less a celebration of continued life and more a harbinger of doom, as people see in it portents and prophecy that spell the end of humanity.

We have lost touch with the fact that the calendar is an artificial construct; we chain ourselves to it and the measures it provides, as if each moment is somehow etched into the fabric of the universe. The idea of fate speaks of skeins woven into life that cannot be altered, only revealed in turn; free will tells us that our path through life is unwritten, only bounded by the slipping of each moment through the hourglass, beyond our reach if we do not take it up as it happens. The calendar is the marker of regret, passion, success, pity, longing, belonging, and the myriad emotions tucked away inside is. We travel along its linear confines, not by some trick of mechanics, but impelled by our own thoughts. Each page that turns is the physical representation that tells us our life is "slipping away."

That the mechanisms of the unfolding universe operate on some level that requires a means of tracing a path and that this tracing is often thought to be temporal, we become slaves to the ephemeral. No one "feels" the advance of time as a force or physical object. Within us, we do not notice the change we undergo overtly, only chancing to take it in when we look in the mirror or take part in conversation or look at the numerals on the calendar and begin to do the unconscious sums in our mind. We rail against our march along time's path, we seek to slow it down, alter it, avoid it, or paper it over, convincing ourselves that we are somehow better for not having "aged."

Age, we must. It is an inevitability and we are condemned to it by the laws of physics, mainly the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which tells us that all attempts to create order out of chaos are futile, because entropy is the engine of disorder and we cannot separate ourselves from it. We may stretch our lifetimes through the auspices of science into seemingly indefinite lengths, but even the universe ends, and we along with it. It is this inevitability, in the specter of death, that frightens us, because deep in our DNA is encoded the will to survive, and every fiber of who we are is dedicated to our individual survival and through that, the survival of our species. Human society has been built on that inner fire, and it has driven us to soaring heights and profane depths.

So, given our lot, do we quit? Certainly not, for what may seem a surety at this stage in our evolution and understanding may seem like folly and ignorance a thousand years hence. The universe, as we see it, is infinite, and so within it lie answers to questions yet asked, and perhaps a means to escape a "certain" fate. What the future holds, despite the word of the soothsayers, remains unknown, but we shall not know it where we tie ourselves down to the ticking of the clock or the turning of the calendar. Our life is ours, to do with as we will, until it isn't. We owe it to ourselves and whatever forces allowed  conscious and curious humanity to arise from primordial atoms, to loose ourselves from the confines of artificial measure and live each day as if there were an unlimited number to come. Only when we break free of the cage we have created, will we learn and grow as we must.

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