The way of the world is this:

Two philosophers stood ankle-deep at a beach, disputing & discerning. They were on the verge of a great synthesis when an unexpected wave knocked them over, dragging them across the bottom, filling their mouths with foam and tossing them back up on the sand.

When they were done coughing, they found they had forgotten their realization.

I want to see a Youtube video consisting of footage from A Man For All Seasons in which Sir Thomas More faces down his prosecutors, set to the tune of Harper Valley PTA.

We only get so much time in this world, and I’ve got other projects to use it on. But I would love to see it.

In the same vein, I want to see a fanvid for REM’s “Driver 8,” consisting of clip after clip of horrific rail accidents from Thomas the Tank Engine.

(Followup: Oh wow, somebody (sort of) did that one! But not with the rail accidents. I don’t know why they left that out. It’s the best part of Thomas the Tank Engine)

 

Last night we went to the museum. I got separated from my wife & kids and wandered into a room containing a massive scale-model diorama of Hong Kong and the entire Pearl River Delta. I could see tiny cars crossing the bridges, and see crowds around the bases of the skyscrapers.

A voice came over a PA. This exhibit was on the earthquake threat to the region. Sluices in the walls opened; water began to pour into the room. The diorama started to to shake.

I saw the bridges break, imagined the hundreds of cars falling into the sea. The streets began to flood, the skyscrapers to crumble. The PA explained that in the event of such an earthquake, the region would subside. I watched Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with their millions, sink beneath the rising water, until it was just me, standing waist-deep, with nothing else visible above the surface.

Drains opened. The water poured away and the diorama rose again for the next demonstration.

When I caught up with my family, my 6-yr-old asked “What did you see, Daddy?” I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want to scare her.

Then I woke up.

In my youth, I was promised a future in which Japan would take over the world.

In its stead, I received a future in which Japan is dying.

That’s OK. The Japan that would have taken over the world was not that Japan that I wished would have. It’s better this way.

“The beasts talk,” Grandmama said. “While we’re down in the village at Midnight Mass, they talk. God grants them the gift of speech. Because they were there when Jesus was born, the beasts, they nuzzled him and loved him and the babe touched them with his hand at that sacred hour, and ever since, at midnight at Christmas Eve, the beasts talk.”

Every year Grandmama told him this, but not this year. Now Grandmama was buried, in the graveyard next to the little church in the village where everyone else on the farm was right now. Josef was not with them; he had told Mama he felt sick and managed to convincingly cough up a gob of vomit (really just old cream from the Christmas Eve cake) and she left him.

Josef was twelve, on the brink of boy and man. Next year he would be too old. He missed his Grandmama, and he would know the truth of what she told him. The midnight hour was near, he could feel it, tucked under the thick feather bolster. He crept out into the freezing room and dressed. He would see if it was true, hear their words with his own ears.

The kitchen was empty, the ovens banked after their Eve feast, preparing for tomorrow’s gorge. The Christmas tree, whose candles had been brilliantly lit an hour ago, sat dark. He skirted through the empty kitchen, though the empty house. Out to the barn.

The smell, the smell of rich manure, the smell of hay he helped cut. The snow stung his face. He plastered himself to the east side of the barn, and listened.

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Go back to 8000 BCE. Agriculture is just beginning to come together. There are are maybe 5 million human beings. Sumeria, Egypt, Harappa, the Olmecs, the Xia dynasty–all these belong to the distant future. 10000 years ago. The utter beginnings of human civilization.

Now take that and multiply–everything, from the most distant reaches of what we might call history to our own day-ONE HUNDRED TIMES OVER

And you get a million years. 1/65th of the way to the end of the Age of Dinosaurs. Which lasted 186 million years.

We are less than a blip. We are a blip on a blip. And anything you or I might recognize as something we were accustomed to is a blip on that blip, a microblip.