Gesticulating g-strings on fire. The terminal velocity of bodies falling through space. How the universe will end. These are a few of the things lying in wait for those brave enough to read The Sky is Not the Limit, the memoir of America’s greatest living science communicator.
A lot has happened in the world during the past few weeks. In the U.S., police have served as both the perpetrators and victims in several widely publicized shootings. In France, a terrorist killed scores of people as he plowed into a large crowd gathered at a promenade in Nice. Throughout several countries in the Middle East, a string of bombings has left hundreds dead (this hardly got reported).
In times like these, it’s important to seek uplift; to choose not wallow in fear or submit to cynicism. Mainstream news can make this challenging since it’s often hard to find anything positive to hold onto. Death unfortunately, tends to sell more copy than hope. This is why I like to have positive resources at the ready. I keep a running folder of stored articles and videos that I add to regularly. I cycle through these when the world seems to be disintegrating to keep my perspective in balance.
One of my favorites is an excerpt from Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. I revisit this video a few times each year when I need a reminder to take a look at the world from a distant vantage point. This is a short video that packs a lot of wisdom into few words.
Sagan reminds us to stay humble–truly humble–in the face of our world’s problems. He reminds us that all of the things we kill and hate for seem absurd when you look at the world from the perspective of space, thousands of miles away. The Earth, a pale blue dot orbiting around a nearby star among billions of others, is the only home we have. We need to learn how to share it better.
For many of us growing up in a Western culture, our only exposure to the idea of forgiveness was during our childhood religious education. As our culture has become more secular, we have unfortunately lost the cultural conversation on forgiveness that went out along with religion.
This is a shame because with the condition the world is in right now, we desperately need a culture that is capable of forgiving more than ever. We need to learn how to integrate forgiveness better into our families, schools, legal system, places of work, and politics.
To move us closer to that goal, we need a secular understanding of what forgiveness is and how to do it. We need to make forgiveness relevant for the 21st Century.
The world is on fire right now. Anger, resentment, violence, and hatred–these are the themes pervading our news cycles. Every day we seem to be drifting towards self-destruction. Every day the 21st Century looks more and more like the last.
The hope that we had somehow learned the lessons of history and entered into a new era of peace now seems naïve. The optimism for a more peaceful century many of us had at the turn of the millennium feels deader with every news story.
It’s hard to summarize all of the events that have taken place in the past sixteen years into one global theme, but the dominant feeling of our zeitgeist seems to be existential anxiety.
The question we’re often confronted with is what do we do about all of this? The scope and reach of problems seems to be way beyond our control. Many grow tired of feeling paralyzed with anxiety and tune out of the news altogether. The madness just seems too great.