I saw this over at New Kid’s blog and liked the idea of articulating things that bring wonderment or puzzlement to you, particularly on a Monday morning which is always a particularly puzzling and wonder-ful time of the week.
8 Things I Wonder About:
1. Where is all the trash going? I worry/wonder about this ALL of the time. What will happen to all of the trash? What happens when we have more trash than space? Why do we create such vast amounts of garbage? There’s a great history of the notion of disposability, “Waste and Want” by Susan Strasser and how it is that American culture transformed itself from one that reused everything from rags to fat into one that throws everything away. I’m not so fanatical that I don’t make trash myself, but damn, do I feel guilty every time I throw anything away as I watch the vignette in my head of how it goes from my house to the truck to the processing center to the landfill to the bottom of a pit to thousands of years later when maybe, just maybe, it might disintegrate into the earthy stuff that it should disintegrate into. But, only if it is very lucky. And non-toxic. Otherwise, it will just sit there. Forever. As Ani Difranco so wonderfully put it, “What a waste of thumbs that are opposable, to make machines that are disposable.”
2. Bird migrations. What an amazing, wonderful thing that these tiny critters fly halfway around the world on those little wings, every damned year. Seriously, think about hummingbirds, for example. Some of those little suckers fly to Panama for the winter. From North America. I can’t even walk down the block without moaning and groaning about how tired I am. The Arctic Tern migrates every year from the Arctic to the Antarctic. You can’t go much farther than that. And, how do they know where to go? I get lost in my own neighborhood. Wonderful.
3. (Along the lines of #1) What are we going to do with the nuclear waste? I once saw an amazing talk by Patricia Nelson Limerick, a historian of the American West, about the proposed Yucca Mountain waste storage site in which she talked about the problem of developing signs and symbols to warn people thousands of years into the future to stay away from the site, given the high probability of profound cultural transformation that would take place in that time frame. I wonder about this from time to time. How do we create a symbol that has meaning (danger, for example) for people thousands and thousands of years in the future? And, why do we keep creating shit that won’t decay for thousands and thousands of years into the future, but that would kill us if we came into contact with it before then?
(I stopped blogging just now to go downstairs to the kitchen of the Cafe and order my tofu-peanut wrap for lunch and on the wall they had an Einstein quote that spoke nicely to the question of wonderment (in its most positive sense): “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle.”
4. The infinity of the universe. I mean, that thing is enormous. So enormous it is beyond the imagination of anything that I can grasp. If I thought the trip from the Arctic to the Antarctic was huge, imagine the trip through the whole universe? The enormity of that is just mind-blowingly miraculous. I can’t wrap my brain around it, or do anything except just wonder at it.
5. Why do people STILL kill each other over religion? I mean, I understand having a faith and believing passionately in something that is bigger than and more powerful than one’s self, and generally, I think this can be a good thing. Especially when it inspires people to be kinder to each other. But, I just don’t understand why it is that people need to impose their beliefs on others, and that that need so often devolves into violence, mayhem, chaos, and death and that people think that that violence and death is justified by the more powerful being that is believed in. I can’t imagine any kind of God that would condone or approve of the killing of another person. Well, ok, maybe in self defense or if you were in a position to take out Hitler, but that isn’t the same thing to me as killing someone because they have different beliefs about the infinite than you do. I just don’t get this at all.
6. Why is a gallon of gas cheaper than a gallon of milk? (Until recently, that is.) Gas is non-renewable. Cows are. This just seems so stupid. I know the policy reasons and government subsidies etc. that are behind this pricing thing, but it just goes against basic common sense, as I suppose does much of the nation’s economic policies. (See #1, #5). Go figure.
7. As a pregnant person, I just gotta wonder at the miracle that is procreation itself. I mean, these little tiny cells that make up parts of our bodies, hook up one night and then cook themselves into a whole other person. A complete human being. And that whole other person is made INSIDE the body of someone else. I mean, it seems so improbable! A little kissing here, some heavy petting there, leading to a little bit of sex, and then boom — another human is the result. Wow. Crazy. Wonderful.
8. And, finally, on a more selfish note, I wonder why it is that I just can’t seem to finish my dissertation. Fear? Boredom? Self-Doubt? Insecurity? Anger? Pain? Exhaustion? I’m sure there’s some toxic cocktail in here that is a nice, ugly mix of all of these things. But, haven’t I done enough naval-gazing about this? Haven’t I identified all of the shit that is holding me back? So, why don’t I just do it? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. Perhaps it isn’t helped by the fact that I keep thinking about it as an enormous WHOLE instead of bird by bird, bit by bit, chunk of manageable work by chunk of manageable work.
And, on that happy note, I’m going to leave behind all of these things that make me wonder, encourage all of you to think today about what makes you wonder, and start in on a small, manageable chunk of my dissertation.