Friday, February 12, 2016

Reasons for Wonder in these Hard Times

--I should be done with Hard Times by now.  It's one of the shortest books that Dickens wrote.  But I feel such a sense of foreboding when I pick it up.

--I did read it the Wednesday night when I was having trouble sleeping because of my pre-bedtime TV watching:  American Crime followed by a few minutes of the local news.

--It's fascinating to be reading  Hard Times in this current election year.  It gives me a kind of bleak comfort to realize how long the middle classes have been under assault, how long the downward slide in education has been--and then there's the real comfort to think about the resilience of humanity.  We've gone through the grimness of the Industrial Revolution--we can get through our current hard times too.

--The complete title of the book:  Hard Times: for These Times.  Indeed.

--Of course, not all the news about our state of education is bad.  I'm thinking of yesterday's big announcement that we now have proof of Einstein's theory of relativity.  This blog post was an interesting look back at how we managed to perceive these black holes colliding.

--I loved this part:  "But now, we are told, we can finally see gravitational waves directly. This is like someone who is blind to the color red — and all things red — suddenly waking up to a world with apples and roses and Valentine's Day cards. This would mean that, using LIGO as a gravitational wave telescope, we've just opened up an entirely new window on a universe of black holes, neutron stars and, perhaps, even the Big Bang itself."

--It reminded me of this blog post which talks about how as sentient humans, we may be more alone in the universe than we know:  "Life should exist elsewhere but, if it does, the probability is that it will be simple, some kind of alien bacteria. Intelligent aliens may be out there in Earth-like planets, or in more exotic environments, but if they are, they are very far away. For all practical purposes, we are alone as intelligent molecular machines capable of pondering our origins and future."

--But that's not a reason for despair:  "This is the striking revelation from modern science, one that should grab everyone's attention. We matter because we are rare and our planet matters because it is unique. At the very least, it should inspire us to re-evaluate our relationship to one another and to the planet, beyond petty ideologies and short-sighted tribal disputes that fill so much of our time."

--A good reminder, in this political election year that looks to be long and likely will get uglier.

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