Monday, December 29, 2014

Time's up

Are you looking forward to next year? I am. 2014 has been a pretty good year for us so far, but some things that I started this year I hope will really come together in 2015. Some opportunities I missed this year will reappear next. (Who knew the Hinckley Fire Museum closed during the Winter?) I'll admit to not having made the most of each and every moment this past year, but I'm improving. One of the discoveries I've made is that achieving a balance between repeatedly doing things I know I'll enjoy and starting new things I haven't yet tried is a pretty constant challenge. With the cold returned this morning and the cloud cover mostly gone, I did notice that today's sunrise looked a lot like the one from about this time last year.

late December, Winter sunrise
Photo by J. Harrington

Recently, I checked Alan Lightman's book, The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew, out of the library and started reading it. In his essay on The Temporary Universe, he mentions a duration of "ten billion billion years," which may or may not be little more than theoretically interesting, since our sun has but some 5 billion years to go before it flames out. I'm reading the book and thinking about time as part of an effort to try to understand what we can realistically mean by "sustainable." Loosely, it means we can continue doing something forever, which is more than "ten billion billion years." Clearly, that has essentially no meaning in human terms. Conversely, I believe we're also doing ourselves and our descendants irreparable harm with our fixation on short term profits, measured each three months. The wisdom of the Native American--Onondaga Nation focus on having "always in view not only the present but also the coming generations" -- which has been phrased as "...to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. . . ." is starting to become apparent. It gives us a time frame of about 140 to 175 years, sustainable for less than forever, but within a framework we humans can try to comprehend. If each succeeding generation uses the same time frame for its decisions, we humans might be around long enough to watch our sun grow cold. If not, ..? Something to think about next year, right? Or while we read Ms. Dickenson's lines.

Forever – is composed of Nows – (690)

By Emily Dickinson 

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –


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