Chasing

Right now, I am thinking of a documentary I watched recently that's been heavy on my mind. It interweaves the astronomical observatories in the Atacama desert of Chile with the story of the Chilean women who are searching that same desert for the bodies of the disappeared that were dumped there by the thousands under the Pinochet dictatorship. There is one interview with an astronomer where he explains what I remember learning in my high school science class, that the light from the stars is breathtakingly old--millions and millions of years old. Astronomy is archaeology in this respect, an investigation into the deep past. Even the light from the sun, burning bright on a spring-like February day is old--8 minutes old ... all day long. And the moon on a clear night, the light is a second old ... all night long. As I sit here and Lauren writes across this table from me, the image of it arrives an infinitesimal fraction of a second later. It is old light ... and the sound of her pen to my ear is older still. 

So, here's the rub. The present, the unrelenting, perpetual present in which we reside is being chased by our perception of it and always will be. We will never witness the absolute present. My yoga teacher may take issue with this notion but such are the conflicts between science and religion. So, with all due respect, Valley ... right now, I was.... I was wondering why this realization, something that practically speaking is insignificant, why this realization has left me feeling thrown against a wall. Like all the big questions leave you feeling, I guess. Rarely do I find my small self put in context with the whole shit-show of creation. But notions like this do it. They make me think about the light from stars long dead--though our astronomers will never live long enough to know it. They make me marvel at how this singular collection of atoms that is "me" once nestled so intimately with all the those atoms that make up the stars that the expanding universe has moved "me" so far away from. Perhaps in that ephemeral moment nearly 14 billion years ago before everything was catapulted into the emptiness that has become our universe, perhaps there was a moment when the present was perceived purely and immediately. And while "I" was not there, all that composes me was.

 

Richmond, VA