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Over the past two weeks, I have made several attempts to write something worthy here about all the tragic, history-altering things that are going on around the world. It was heavy on my mind and in my heart, and so I felt it was my duty, somehow.

I realize now that I was wrong, which is why those efforts all ended up in the trash.

The truth is, most of these events make no sense at all, and there is little wisdom to be gleaned from their dissection, only more misery and existential angst. We are human, God is randomly cruel, and the universe is mind-numbingly inexplicable.

Not that people don’t try. That is our nature. I see people on the news every day trying to assert that they can predict the next big earthquake or tornado or volcanic explosion down to the second. They are almost always wrong, although they try their best to spin the facts otherwise. And there are no shortage of holier-than-thou crackpots, too, who would like to attribute these catastrophes to God’s Great Wrath, which they always claim is due to some ancient perceived failing on the stricken people’s ancestors. How Godly of them to point these things out, I might add, when the bodies are still fresh, and the waters have yet to recede.

On a nobler note, there is a huge team of brilliant scientists, the best in their fields, working several hundred feet under a mountain in Switzerland trying to discover the basic events and elements that formed our universe. The apparatus for their experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, is epic in scope and cost tens of billions of dollars to build – it’s intention and magnitude so great, in fact, that some people feared it would create a black hole that would swallow the Earth and everything else in its wake – and yet, it was recently derailed for nearly two years, and at the cost of several additional billion, by a single faulty magnet, measuring less than a meter in size. This, in a site that spans over seventeen square underground miles.  Can you imagine the frustration of trying to solve the mysteries of the universe and being thwarted by a simple magnet?

I feel for them. I really do. It’s not so different from the feeling I get when I try to fix something, whether it be a faucet or an awkward sentence or a child’s shaken self-confidence, and I don’t have the tools or the know-how to get the job done: I know there’s a problem, dang it, and I’m spending the time to make it right. Isn’t that enough?!

On the other hand, when I do manage to get it right? When the faucet works, and the sentence flows, and the tears dry? Then, for that brief moment, I feel like a conquering hero, with thunderbolts in my hands.  I know, I know, these are trivial matters in the big scheme of things, but they are tangible and graspable and right there in front of me. Problem solved? Check!

I think we all need to allow ourselves these little victories – not just every once in a while but on a daily basis – so as to make up for all the things in our lives and in our world that are so completely out of our control. The sad fact is, most of us will never be able to find a cure for cancer, or lead the successful charge to end an iron-fisted dictatorship, or appear just in the nick of time to save that orphanage from the rising tides of the tsunami. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s true.  If history teaches us anything, it’s that you generally can’t pick those kind of heroic situations – they pick you.

But this is what we can do: we can make a donation, of money or time or usable goods. We can say a prayer. We can plant a tree. We can pick up trash. We can recycle. We can learn a new skill, or instrument, or language. We can help an old lady across the street.  In fact, we can respect our elders at every available opportunity (because if I live to be 80, I know I’m gonna want some frickin’ respect). We can keep ourselves healthy, and informed, and remain open-minded. We can do favors without expecting one in return.  We can check the organ donor box on our driver’s licenses. We can rescue stray pets, and adopt or foster or befriend needy children. We can be good parents to our own children and guardians to the land around us. We can appreciate what we have, rather than covet and envy what we don’t. We can live by the Golden Rule.

That last one’s a biggie, I have found. It pretty much comprises all the others , and everything else I have neglected to mention. Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you. Now that I think about it, if I can just manage to do that throughout the course of my day (except at the poker table; there, it’s still every man for himself) I will at least feel a bit better when I go to sleep at night, in my dry bed, in my house that isn’t shaken to rubble or floating off to sea, in my free country, in a world that has yet to be swallowed by a black hole.

Amen.