Wednesday, June 27, 2007

265. don tomate

Okay, sorry about that. This has, by far, been the longest stretch between posts I've ever allowed myself. Before this, the longest "break" I took was back in July/August of '06 (see blog 219).

So why the long break?

As strange as it sounds, I've been asking myself the same thing for weeks, because I just wasn't posting and it wasn't that I didn't want to post, it wasn't that I didn't have anything to write about, it wasn't even plain ol' laziness because I did want to write...only, I didn't actually write anything - at least nothing that made it to the posting stage.

And then yesterday at lunch while eating my tuna sandwich and reading The Cannon by Natalie Angier, it hit me. Angier's book is about the fundamentals of the sciences, and it was while reading her chapter on scale and measurement that I realized that I had lost my sense of wonder at the world. And you can't write without wonder. Well, you can but it's not going to be very fun to write and certainly no fun at all to read.

See, Angier was saying something about how so much of our understanding of the world is tied into things that are sized relatively close to us. For example, it's pretty easy for us to understand how large one inch, one foot, or one mile is, even if we don't use a ruler. That's because we're used to operating at a scale where inches, feet, and miles are tossed around all the time. However, when it cones to understanding how small a nanometer is (a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers wide) or that the nearest star to our planet (besides the sun) is Proxmia Centauri - a mere 4.2 light years away (24,000,000,000,000 miles) which is a tiny distance considering that the galaxy closest to ours is 2.5 million light years away.

According to Angier, understanding the world at the nanometer level or the intergalactic level is nearly impossible for us because they are so beyond anything we could ever experience with our limited senses.

Now I can't remember exactly how it was that I went from Angier talking abut scales to my minor epiphany, but I realized that the world has become wonderless. And while I love science (which is why I'm reading Angier's book) and what science has done for the world, I also blame science for sucking all of the wonder out of the world. Because as lovely as sunsets are, they are only so because the sun has to travel through more of the earth's atmosphere while near the horizon. As vital as love feels, it's a chemical process in the brain that leads to strong interpersonal bonds which makes for more successful child rearing - a favorable evolutionary trait (see here).

Take any part of nature or human experience that seems transcendent or worthy of awe and you can find a cold, mechanistic explanation for why or how it makes you feel that way. Is it any wonder that I (and many others, I suspect) have forgotten how to marvel at anything anymore? Doesn't all this scientific rationalism leave us with the feeling that we're naive to be dependent on these sloppy, archaic things called emotions?

You might get the idea that I've been morose and depressed all this time, thinking that science has sucked all the marrow from life, but that hasn't been the case. My emotions have been on an even keel - swinging between doing-fine-I'm-okay to whoopee-let's-go-fly-a-kite. But I think part of the reason I haven't been writing is because this whole science-has-an-explanation-for-everything thing has been a kind of invisible anchor.

To tell the whole truth, it's more than this science thing that's been holding me back. I'll talk about some of these other "anchors" in future posts, but (finally) here's what my little lunchtime epiphany taught me.

I need to find a way back to wonder and beauty and awe. But I can't just jettison what reason and science has taught me. I don't want to retreat into fantasy or absurdity (meaninglessness). But then how do we maintain our humanity in an increasingly mechanized/mechanistic world? And how do we make the case for Christianity when atheism is becoming more popular through authors like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins? And it's not that they're making new arguments, it's more that the idea of there not being a supreme deity is more acceptable now. How do we go about correcting the injustices of the world (like those perpetrated by, say, the United States) when even in the face of damning evidence of damnable actions, people seem far more interested in Friday's release of the iPhone (and yeah, I want one)?

Big problems, big questions. Small blog. But you (I) have to use what God has given me and so instead of being intimidated by what I'm up against, I need to get back at the business of jousting windmills.

Anchors aweigh!

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