I have been reading Virilio on technological speed and the way that it obliterates space and time, and just quickly, Adorno on reflecting on self-reflection and non-identity. I will write more soon on these. In other pensées, BM sent me a link to Dabrowski, a polish intellectual whose idea of Positive Disintegration interests me greatly. I like this idea that one should make use of experiences, and rather than avoiding pain, fear or unhappiness, appreciate that these essential crisis periods are what enable us to reflect and change. On a side note, this is why I like cloudy days and cool days and winter days and why I do not like summer days, hot days, sunny days. There is something endlessly pensive about a grey sky, whether it is that the sun is not garishly bending around you, imposing time, to go, to go, or passed and no longer. One wanders into a greyday fugue, and loses oneself, often, to thoughts of things outside oneself. I do not care for the sunny summer days, that say "frolic, child, frolic, you need not own past and future here". Plus I get sunburnt.
To wit, I think we have a problem of scale. I was talking to AE recently and he tries to look at everything from all its scales; from the atomic, where everything is mostly empty space, perhaps then taking on the perspective of an ant, knowing with supreme sensitivity surface textures and the simplest curves and angles, to us, which one needs not explain, then perhaps a bird, or from space, then the universe, infinite possible worlds, the big bang and the start of time (which AG pointedly noted the other day, is linguistically insubstantial). He thinks that understanding this, at all moments, lets him keep what is instinctively important in all those scales. Geometry, maths, science. Not a mechanistic view, but that strange sublime, that secret feeling of wondrous cognisance, that perhaps for an instant your mind can broach the void, look over into it and see something other than our human scale.
I was listening to David Christian, author of Big History, talk about origin myths, our new scientific one, our old ones, and their places in the world now. One interesting point he makes is that all origin myths are comprised of similar ideas; simplicity, growing complexity, basic physical and moral laws. Ours differs from the others in two respects; that our time scale is almost incomprehensible in a human sense, and, that not everyone in our society knows our origin myth. The point of origin myths was to teach something of scale to children, and to remind adults. It was an integral part of culture, of understanding your place in your world.
What happens when we don't understand scale or are never taught to think about it? I wonder what our world would be like if we all had an understanding of our place in history, that the whole of human existence is but a blip? Would we treat it more carefully, would it be more sacred? There is something that I just heard about, Saturday the 18th of December (and I'm finished for the semester! jee!) that is, the Overview Effect, the experience of astronauts when they look back down upon the Earth from space, seeing the fertile areas, the changing weather, and all this out of the context of ordinary human experience, the quotidian, where one often forgets that there are things more momentous. In a letter to U:
... it is nice to sit back and see everything from outside of the human scale (as in, what is around us, told to us by our eyes, ears, nostrils), and realise that when you breathe or move your hand you are pushing particles of oxygen and carbon dioxide around, that you are changing the electromagnetic field, that you are hearing sine, saw, triangle or square waves (the last ones shouldn't really be called waves, I think there is something singularly curvy about waves), and that outside of that, from a sky or space perspective, to think of the world revolving, the stars that we see being light sent from millions of years ago, that time and space are in fact one thing, that if you happen to see a supernova, the neurons in your eyes are literally being fired by the exposure to real light waves from a time so long ago that we can hardly comprehend it. I sometimes like to think that perhaps there is a supernova dying in a grand explosion right now and that in 300 million years someone will finally see it from Earth and they will be connected to us on the same bizarre time space dimension. Ooh, this just breaks my mind. In a nice way. Have you seen the Eames' Power of Ten? It is pretty rad.