Friday, January 20, 2006

In our stillness

Yesterday I shared the preface of Walking Zero. Here is the epigraph that stands at the front of the book, a few lines from my friend and ever-popular writer on all things human, Scott Russell Sanders:

"There are no privileged locations. If you stay put, your place may become a holy center, not because it gives you special access to the divine, but because in your stillness you hear what might be heard anywhere. All there is to see can be seen from anywhere in the universe, if you know how to look."

The track of the prime meridian across England from Peace Haven in the south to the mouth of the River Humber in the north is nearly 200 miles. If that distance is taken to represent the 13.7 billion year history of the universe, then all of recorded human history is less than a single step. The entire story I have told in Walking Zero, from the Alexandrian astronomers and geographers to the present-day, would fit into a single footprint. If those same 200 miles are taken to represent the distance to the most distant objects we observe with our telescopes, then a couple of steps would take me across the Milky Way Galaxy. A mote of dust from my shoe is large enough to contain not only our own solar system but many neighboring stars! In such a universe, how do we dare assume access to the divine? As Scott says, it's all in knowing how to look.