16 October 2006
Is the Universe already teeming with intelligent life? Or is the emergence of life a rare event? Or is life quite common across the Universe, but generally content to remain in single-celled forms? Martin Rees, a senior astronomer at Cambridge, is fond of contemplating the consequence if this planet is the unique place in our vast universe where intelligent life has evolved.
“More time lies ahead than
has elapsed in the entire course of biological evolution. In those aeons,
Earth could be the ‘seed’
from which post-human life spreads through the galaxy. The fate of humanity
could then have an importance that is truly cosmic: what happens here might
conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever
more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base
Ever since the Copernican Revolution, man’s place in the Universe has seemed small and peripheral. But Rees also sees the opposite possibility: if human life has the unique opportunity to colonize space, then the fate of our civilization in the 21st century could have cosmic significance.
“Once the threshold is
crossed when there is a self-sustaining level of life in space, then life’s
long-range future will be secure irrespective of any of the risks on Earth
(with the single exception of the catastrophic destruction of space itself).
Will this happen before our technical civilisation disintegrates, leaving
this as a might-have-been? Will the self-sustaining space
communities be established before a catastrophe sets back the prospect
of any such enterprise, perhaps foreclosing it forever? We live at what
could be a defining moment for the cosmos, not just for our Earth.”
15 October 2006
How I Meditate, part IV
When I meditate on Peace, Love, Joy and Immortality, I follow an elaborate script, amplifying each image with variations from diverse traditions:
peace implies an appreciation of the world’s perfection, because pure
peace is only available to those who renounce all desire to change their
14 October 2006
“A good place to look for wisdom is...where you least expect to find it: in the minds of your opponents. You already know the ideas common on your own side. If you can take off the blinders of the myth of pure evil, you might see some good ideas for the first time.”
13 October 2006
remember being made
12 October 2006
Ralph Vaughan Williams, born this day in 1872, was ever the mentor to younger composers, ever the proponent of traditional and folk music, ever wary of promoting the wide range of composition that he produced himself.
Listen to Vocalise
for voice and clarinet, performed by Sarah Walker and Roger Vignoles
11 October 2006
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.”
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
pacifist, humanitarian, tireless advocate for human rights, was born this
day in 1884.
10 October 2006
“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”
9 October 2006
“The man who lives in his religious centre of personal energy, and is actuated by spiritual enthusiasms, differs from his previous carnal self in perfectly definite ways. The new ardor which burns in his breast consumes in its glow the lower ‘noes’ which formerly beset him, and keeps him immune against infection from the entire groveling portion of his nature. Magnanimities once impossible are now easy; paltry conventionalities and mean incentives once tyrannical hold no sway. The stone wall inside him has fallen, the hardness in his heart has broken down. The rest of us can, I think, imagine this by recalling our state of feeling in those temporary ‘melting moods’ into which either the trials of real life, or the theatre, or a novel sometimes throw us. Especially if we weep! For it is then as if our tears broke through an inveterate inner dam, and let all sorts of ancient peccancies and moral stagnancies drain away, leaving us now washed and soft of heart and open to every nobler leading.”