Feeling the Speed of Life

By Clark M. Thomas

Remember when you were a small child riding in a car on what seemed like a very long trip? Maybe you don't, but I do. A simple ride across town with my cautious mother felt like it took forever. When you have little history and the future looks infinite, time seems to move slowly. Decades later, time seems to accelerate as you approach THE END, which is precisely when you want time to slow down.

Humanity's relationship with the visible universe is very similar. There was an era when bright things on the spirit-filled celestial dome seemed to stand still relative to each other - except for the Sun, Moon, those five odd planets, falling stars, and evil comets. It was easy for each traditional generation to envision the flat Earth they knew as being at the center of it all.

Fast forward to the post-Galilean world. Our view of The Above has quantitatively and qualitatively transformed. Our industrial culture no longer looks up at a simple stellar dome. We now see great depth and mystery. This emerging cultural consciousness is similar to that of a human life full of curiosity. Discovery is the reward for persistent curiosity. Throw in totally new tools to amplify our native senses (telescopes, space ships, and computers), and you have an "adult" society rushing toward an end stage where we either destroy ourselves, or emerge with wisdom to enjoy consciousness everywhere.

I am left asking myself which is better - the comfort of traditional simplicity, or the discomfort of modern complexity. In astronomy, for millennia the heavens were the abode of ancestors and gods. Now, many aren't even sure about God "up there in the clouds." We at least know that Earth's clouds are meteorological phenomena at the top of our biosphere; so where are God and the gods? Is there a cosmic Gaia, a "universal biosphere" that flows among planets, stars, and even galaxies? Would this be God? As modern astronomers, we can live with this ambiguity, because the perpetual hunt is too much fun. We talk about the speed of light, but we experience the speed of life.

Beyond our brief presence on Earth even stars and entire galaxies come to their end. This we intellectually know. Celestial events are far beyond our everyday visceral consciousness. So, it feels like everything macro goes on without an end, even though every thing has a beginning and an end (said the Matrix oracle). Our human delusions of a timeless future help us feel happy, just like the child who looks up and only sees beautiful stars floating above.