Reflection 257: Being There II

April 21, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin


Once upon a time there was a little dot in space. It appears on an image NASA made of our very own Earth using a camera on board Voyager 1 in 1990 when it was four billion miles away from its planet of origin. That dot is us. All of us. Our entire planet as seen from far space.

Humbling to say the least. We are a universal nonentity. A nebbish, no-account planet. One dust speck just floating in emptiness, reducing all human civilization to one pixel among gazillions. Nothing we have ever done makes a difference to any eye that might catch a glimpse of us as a mote drifting across its gaze. We love to talk ourselves up and write books about our deeds, but in the great catalog of the universe, we aren’t even a dot at the end of one sentence. What’s to know, to admire, to engage with?

Yet that dot is all we know. We call it home. The habitat of seven billion human minds, and countless other kinds of animal minds. Seen from space, our great wars, revolutions, and discoveries amount to nothing—a kind of Brownian motion for Dummies, human frictions generating a modicum of heat but certainly no light, all to no purpose whatsoever.

NASA-Earth_96_maskAh, that’s much better. At least it’s recognizable. Oceans—both Atlantic and Pacific. Clouds. An ice cap. There’s Florida. Mexico. Thank you, NASA, for getting a bit closer. But the image still doesn’t show any signs of us, we the people of earth. Hey, we’re down here on the surface, doing our thing. How do you turn up the resolution of these things so we stand out the way we see ourselves as A-Number One? I guess you just gotta be here to see what’s going on.

Panorama-E-coast_1-29-2012_nasa_96Better. Much better. NASA, you’re starting to get it. All those lights—that’s us, brightening the world so we can do our thing at night as well as during the day. We’re the night eliminators going 24/365. See, there’s Philly, New York, Long Island, Cape Cod, Boston. Lake what . . . Ontario? Ottawa, Montreal. Not much of Maine. Maine goes to bed when it gets dark. Maybe that blue is the northern lights. Well, without us, you’d still see that, and the stars of course, but nothing else. No cities, no roads, no boats out on the water.

WestStreet_BarHarbor_8-2011Finally! I think you got it. Yes, definitely. That’s what being in Bar Harbor is like in August. Bright sun, crowded sidewalks, construction, cruise ships, people heading every which way. You gotta be there to take in the hustle, the ice cream cones, the lobster dinners, the beer, the music, the spirit. America on vacation. That’s the scene. Doing it. Being there in Bar Harbor, Maine. Where nothing is important but everything you do is the most important thing in the world. Where to go, what to do, what to take, what to see, what to wear.

Being there is living your life wholly as yourself, open to anything and everything, taking it all in, growing larger, focusing your senses, seeing and doing things you never did before because you didn’t know they were possible. Until you realized they were at that time in that place.

Being there is the opposite of going to school. Of sitting silently in your seat in a row of seats in a room full of seats, with a teacher up front, and a white board, and a digital projector showing you the world—but not really the world because it leaves the exciting parts out. That’s being there in body but not in spirit. Going through the motions to train you to be a dutiful worker and do what you’re told to do. Or sitting in a cubicle playing computer games when no one is looking, feeling guilty and glad to be getting away with it just the same.

No, being there requires full engagement with your sharpest attention, really taking part in what’s going on around you. Being there comes down to engaging your surroundings where you are, when you are there; being fully yourself in that place.

That’s my thought for today. I’m engaged in writing this blog. What are you up to? Y’r friend, –Steve


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