Thursday, November 11, 2010
Yielded to Existence
Reading with relish "The Sacred Depths of Nature" by Ursula Goodenough, a woman who writes on the 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog on NPR's site. She teaches biology at Washington University, and has been President of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. The book is constructed to give us the science accessibly, beginning at the origins of the universe, Earth, then chemistry, cells to organisms, biology and biodiversity, awareness, multicellularity, death and speciation. As we read the steps from the inartfully named Big Bang to us, each new study is connected to the awe that is the building block of religion. What Stuart Kauffman called in a recent post "enabling constraints" flows in this book. We are here by science, by experimentation in nature that allows life and then, if a good result is achieved, hopes it remembers how so life can do it again. I am happy reading Ursula Goodenough's book. I sit here typing because a long time ago, our universe was pinhead size and unimaginably hot and then expanded. In the first 3 minutes physics went ziggity boom and yielded subatomic particles. Protons and neurons looked for company, found some and the whole thing kept expanding and forming alliances (except helium, that decided to go it alone), emanations necessary for all life in our universe and countless others. And now here I am. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, Jenni Chipman got me two gifts: a book called "Cells and the Biology of Cancer," and the movie "Toy Story." She knew I needed to understand what had happened to my body, and then I'd have to refocus on what still was fun about life. Like Goodenough's book: in the beginning there was physics, then chemistry, biology, then...Toy Story. I feel thought kinship, an easing of spirit she gifts me because I know I cannot possibly have answers where none exist, that the unknown remains the unknown - a great Mystery that is the Big Bang of awareness, and the physics of religion. Looking at my photographs recently, I noticed an angle that appeals to me quite often. A curve, either upstream or down, so that the viewer does not see the beginning or the end. I must like this view, and I am aware that when I take the picture, I feel happy and enjoy the little piece of water I can see. I know the river begins somewhere high, flows from a source to a sink just as energy flows. I know the river ends at a larger body of water that I also do not see, and I am comfortable with this reality. I am yielded to existence, and thus to experience, and I am awe-fully glad.