ONE THING I MISS ABOUT the pre-21st-century days is the sense of humanity plunging headlong toward some destination.
These days, that collective goal seems hellbound and handbasket-wrapped. But in the days and years leading up to 1/1/2000, the Great Rollover, that sense of heading toward something great and mysterious was sometimes almost palpable. Maybe it’s because we could see a deadline.
Deadlines are wonderful tools for focusing the mind. Without one, I find myself picking listlessly at the keyboard; with one, I have an excuse, however small, to get off the couch. And that’s important. Our planet’s emerging global culture is lacking something without that sense of notional and communal quasi-closure, and I would like to offer a replacement.
In just about 25 years, give or take a month (or, to put it more or less as accurately as I can, in
days:hours:etc.) an asteroid named Apophis will make its second pass at Earth and quite possibly collide with it. That’s about as dead a deadline as you can get, but it’s also a good chunk of time — it’s a quarter-century off, which is sort of good news for us would-be codgers as it obviates the need for Social Security and other obligations; it’s close enough to inspire the imagination, yet far enough to finally develop those %$#@! jetpacks. And it’s a great excuse, however small, to get off the couch.
April 13, 2036. I hope to see you there.
FLYING OVER EARTH IN THE International Space Station? This is what it looks like.
“Do you honor the hole, or refill it with something?” (This may also apply to more than just the WTC memorial. Me, I vote for honoring the hole.)
LET’S MAKE THIS AN EXPLORATION of the landscapes of creativity — how does the creative experience feel to you?
Mentally, I’m all about visualization: perhaps it’s synesthesia, but even smells and sounds have a visual component for me. So I’ve always seen “the creative process” as starting with a curtain across half the universe. Every now and then, the curtain parts just enough to reveal an Idea.
It could be a series of images, even images of words. Now and then it’s a sound. But even the most abstract Idea carries a visual impression of girders and joists, ropes and scrim. Sometimes an Idea will be revealed a piece at a time, with a whole clicking into place almost audibly and palpably. If it’s long, like a story, it feels like a rope uncoiling from the other side of the curtain — a line which must not be allowed to grow slack.
Sometimes an Idea links up with something inside the rest of the universe. Other times it just sits there, gleaming, faintly pulsing, daring me to capture it in words on a screen or a sketch in a notebook. (If I don’t, it can fade within minutes.)
So let’s make this an exploration of the sense-scapes of creativity. How does the creative experience feel to you?
SO NASA HAS JUST RELEASED a nifty web application that lets you whiz about the solar system in real time and swoop in next to planets and satellites and space probes to see what they’re doing (or at least what the programmers know that the scientists know that they’re doing). It’s called, appropriately, “Eyes On The Solar System” and if you don’t click on http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes/ RIGHT NOW and try it boy will YOU be sorry. (Between this, Google Earth and Minecraft, the inner and outer worlds should mesh any day now.)
THE MARITIME SECTION OF MY home library is, like a captain’s yacht, small but well-appointed. I’ve been a ship geek since 1987-88, when I served as a deckhand/docent on a replica of the Golden Hinde, and my taste tends toward the practical: knots, rules of the road, sea survival, Bluejackets’ Manual, even a 1955 Watch Officer’s Guide published at Annapolis. One book whose slim size belies its comprehensivity is more theoretical and historical: I refer to the excellent 1982 volume The Lore Of Sail.
LoS’ 256 pages are divided into four sections plus index: The Hull, Spars and Rigging, The Sail, and Navigation and Ship-handling. Each is a well-illustrated guide to the historical evolution of ships from ancient Egypt to modern Europe. Its size makes it perfect for backpack or peacoat pocket while browsing the world’s great maritime museums or rigged ships, but it’s also museum-like in scope and scale. From the Introduction by Captain Sam Svensson:
From ancient times, sailing the seas has been a unique profession, with techniques and methods which have always puzzled the landlubber. One thousand years before Christ, Solomon said that the way of a ship in the midst of the sea was too wonderful for him to understand.
THERE IS ONE INFLEXIBLE RULE which, if followed diligently, will result in years if not decades of safe bicycling: Pretend you’re invisible.
Now, many get the wrong impression on first hearing this advice — they hear “invisible” and think “invincible,” as if an inability to be seen were some sort of safety asset. As a former bike messenger and longtime bike enthusiast, it’s been my observation that many drivers either can’t or won’t see you — especially in city conditions. And that can be … problematic.
So take them up on it. If you assume that you are out there, naked, invisible, crushable, a potential ping-pong ball between iron paddles, you will not only have a much more realistic grasp of the situation but a better chance of surviving it.
If you realize that your safety begins with you, you can’t help but become more invested.
Come to think of it, that’s not a bad rule for life.
YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE A Jewish Teacher when a former student says “This needed to be here” and gives you a rock he picked up at Masada
(Thanks, Nick. May you also be blessed to know the difference you make.) (Photo by Ann.)
Thank God or your equivalent that the uttermost limits of joy and misery remain mostly unexplored — and largely uncommunicated.
IT’S ALWAYS A NICE DAY at 35,000 feet.
HE COULDN’T TELL WHETHER HE
loved beauty or women more
until the day he called his mom and said
“Guess what? I’m marrying a sunset.”
AND AFTER ALL IS SAID and done, and the horrible truth revealed
The bodies taken away, the last question answered
Comes William S Burroughs
(the gravelly graandpa who’s done things the grownups won’t let you ask him about).
“Interdimensional Alka Seltzer,” he says, proffering a grey fizzing mug,
and sits down beside you.
You take the cup.
He speaks volumes with his eyes
(they’ve seen it all, long before you were born)
but his mouth only says
what you wish it always wouldn’t:
“That’s just the way it is, Out Here.”