Friday, March 06, 2009

the way things are

charles darwin noticed that over time, over many generations of children and parents, living beings evolved into new forms. on the galapagos islands, darwin saw birds with many different kinds of beaks. he discovered they were all finches, the same kind of bird but with a different nose. this suggested at one time there was a simple finch species, but this was branching off into different kinds of finch specialists - big beaked ones for breaking seed shells, narrow beaked ones to catch insects in trees, and etc.

darwin was watching this branching in a transitional phase, between what was and what was to come. over thousands of generations, it is possible that the different kinds of finches would stop being finches, and evolve into altogether different bird species. now this was happening with all living beings, all birds and animals and plants and bacteria and amoeba, and all happening in relationship to each other. the beaks of finches changing to suit of the kinds of food available in their world, and the seeds themselves changing in response to finches and other seeds and weather and soil and plate tectonics and oceans.

and over these few thousands of years of civilization there is a strange thing that humans are slowly becoming aware of, a strange thing about life and ourselves that terrifies us at first and seems to mean the end of everything we care for, and that it affects not just the natural world, but our societies, our beliefs, everything.

and i remember sitting in the park in july with damien talking about the evolution of ideas and how civilization grew and changed over time, and why, and he said

"the great discovery was that everything is changing."

yeah, and that means that everything is changing is relation to everything else. i walked in a gentle snowstorm last night, and i watched the millions of snowflakes falling on the road, through the light of the intersections from the dark of high space, and i noticed how not only is every snowflake perfectly unique, but everysnowflake is falling in its own unique trajectory, and falling in relation to everyothersnowflake, and falling in relation to the ones that had fallen a few seconds before and the ones that were to come.

and its funny that humans want to build a civilization that will endure forever, and that is the motivation for the pyramids and easter island and machu pichu and the vatican and etc. and there they are now crumbling or fading, mostly because things changed. and because they wanted things to remain the same forever. because that is how they understood immortality. as the same thing forever. no wonder the idea of heaven is slightly depressing, and why people looking forward to heaven seem slightly crazy.


there is great beauty and great mystery to the idea of everything changing, and it is such a big thought that it extends far beyond the power of our little heads to really get around it, but even within our tiny lifetimes we see everything changing, we see saplings grow to trees, and parts of cities come down, and people coming into the world and people leaving, and the earth going around the sun marks a year, which is the earth changing and changing is the passage of time and the passage of time only change. who knows, and we ourselves changing and yes paradoxically in a sense remaining the same. but certainly our bodies change against our will.

the most important thing is to understand that this is truth; everything is changing is how life is. the idea of a thing being true is confused with a thing being permanent, and this is maybe where it is terrifying for many, to let go of ideas that one relied upon, that one loved, and to walk freestanding in the world. but the real beauty of embracing that everything changes is that in its heart, it is embracing the feeling that the realities of life and nature and god are much, much, much greater, stranger and more profound than our ideas of life and nature and god, and that to cling to some small, flat, dead human certitude of an idea does not confer purity nor clarity nor any kind of good.

there are lies that can endure, and there are truths that can vanish for generations. the lie that god rewards the faithful is still believed by the majority of the world's people, no matter how many fucking many of them get brutally cut down. and around 240 bce, eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the earth and established that it was, in fact, not flat. this truth would be crushed out of existence for many centuries, until but a few hundreds years ago.