Monday, October 24, 2016
A Lifetime of Nanoseconds
As a non-religious person* I feel as if religious people think me incapable of feeling awe over the world and life in general. They are, of course, wrong. I am humbled by life, by what evolved and by what we’ve created. I often find myself thinking about the immensity of what we’ve accomplished by moving away from sleeping under the stars to arrive at these highly structured and complex lives. How is it possible to not be able to fully comprehend that span of time and also feel as if was just yesterday?
I found myself once again marveling at that sense of progress when I picked up The Federalist Papers tonight. I vaguely remember “reading” (aka skimming) sections in high school so when I saw a used copy up for grabs a year or so ago I let nostalgia (and a sense of guilt) talk me into taking it home with me - where it’s sat on one bookshelf or another ever since.
Maybe it’s the sheer lunacy of this election that sparked a real interest a day or so ago, but whatever the reason, tonight I cracked open the yellowed cover and began reading the introduction.
I’d forgotten that the papers were originally written as a series of letters to the public. If you’d asked me, I’m embarrassed to say I wouldn’t have been able to share that bit of information but as soon as I read that detail the high school history lessons came flooding back. Reading that made me wonder, will anything written today rise to the same level of prominence a hundred years from now? That isn’t me dismissing today’s scholars or thinkers.That is a genuine question; I’d like to be more in tune with think pieces on history, science, etc.
The question is more of a nudge for myself to be proactive and thoughtful about waking up the dormant curiosity about life that used to spur me to learn HTML/CSS, to read psychology journals just for the hell of it, for example. With the way this election is playing out (that Trump is a legitimate concern is mind blogging), it would be easy to dismiss the current populace as being less well read or learned but to do so would require a certain amount of delusion and hypocrisy - as much as I would like to think I shouldn’t be included in that statement I can’t say I’ve been doing a very good job of staying on top of what’s happening in the country, much less the world. I’ve been living an insulated life lately (let’s define lately as the last several decades, shall we?) and thinking about these three men (Hamilton, Madison and Jay) as being so dedicated, focused, and daring as to take on the grand, visionary task of starting a new government makes me ask, “What have I done lately?!?”
I’m certainly not thinking I’ll be the mother of a new nation, but at the very least I could afford to be a little more connected to what’s going on around me, to do a little more living outside of my head. It couldn’t hurt and could only help.
Also? This bit from the introduction written in this edition published in 1961 amused me given the current fame and popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton:
The story of how Hamilton persuaded and plotted and bullied his way over the months to the narrowest of victories in the New York convention is an epic of American politics that deserves to be better known.
Mission accomplished. That line alone has made me want to see the musical more than every article I’ve read, every news clip I’ve seen about the many awards the musical has won. What can I say? I’m slow to understand what’s happening sometimes. See above about living more outside of my head. In its own way, I hear that the musical is awesome (in the truest sense of the word) so, in the pursuit of awesome things in this life and world, maybe I should see about tickets.
But maybe first I should buy a few scratch offs as I hear the tickets are not cheap!
*Perhaps when those of faith stop thinking of atheists as kickers of puppies and stealers of candy from babies I’ll be able to use the label for myself without the awkward contortions.
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