Thursday, April 22, 2010

For Earth Day...the Sun

Happy Earth Day.

Judging from the behavior of some of my neocon colleagues, today is a great day to poke fun at the global environmental movement, make crude jokes, and (once again) tell me
how global warming is all fiction.

Sometimes it is all I can do just to smile and hold my tongue. But, we non-neocons have
our environmental humor too.

And Earth Day is not without its element of consumerism as well (a sure sign that it is starting to become part of mainstream consciousness).
Wal-Mart is suddenly big on Earth Day. The release of the Blu-Ray/DVD of Avatar was purposely scheduled for today. (I'm not going to purchase it, however, because even though I think the film is visually stunning this release has no bonus features - which means a "collector's edition" might be out by Christmas.)

The idea of celebrating the natural world and our efforts to preserve it in spite of humanity's long history of exploitation and disruption of the air we breathe and the water we drink and every other conceivable resource on the planet seems worthy to me. Almost sacred. But, to others it is just another example of
weak-minded liberal intrusion on our God-given right of "dominion over the earth." One of the stupidest aspects of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

The neocon perspective seems to be, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, pollution in the defense of domination is no vice. Idiots.

At any rate, on this day when people like me pause to reflect upon their respect for the natural world, on the writings of Thoreau and
Rachel Carson and others, I find that my thoughts extend beyond the earthly realm to our neighboring star.

Yesterday, NASA released
some extraordinary images of the Sun taken from a new telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory. This sort of stuff fascinates me. In both video and still photo imagery, we now see our Sun in ways no one ever has before. I feel fortunate to be around to witness it.

Some 93 million miles away,
our Sun is so distant that we can't even see it as it is in this present moment. We only see it and feel its life-giving warmth as it was 8 minutes ago. This distance provides us with a basic measuring unit for astronomy...1 AU.

Distances like that have always contained some sort of inspiration for me. Obviously, not because of how infinitesimal the vastness of space makes our own lives and planet. If anything, within the human realm space must be judged in the context of the rather essential prejudice that human beings and our environment are important.


The inspiration I find in the distances of space, rather, comes from simply being able to know them and to experience them as a great openness to which we are, however small, directly connected (we are all made of stardust) and can somehow intimately share. For me, space is not something abstract and cold and gigantic so much as it is a cherished experience of who I am as a person.

The new imagery of our Sun is something I appreciate not as something apart from me, though it clearly is rationally something that is happening without the least relation to me or, indeed, to our Earth as a whole. Rather, I am appreciative of these images strictly for selfish reasons. They enhance my joy of being alive and of knowing and learning.

To that extent, seeing our Sun in this new light touches the perpetual youthful qualities of my Being. That is likely an alien experience for the typical citizen of the American mall crowd. But, I won't be too critical of that today. It's
Earth Day, after all. And time for the neocons to make the stupid jokes.

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