Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Part 2 -- It must change

The oldest human dream is of constancy. In the iffiness of their lives our ancestors longed for a changeless paradise, where ripe fruit never falls and streets are paved with imperishable gold. That constant otherworld they placed in the heavens, above the orb of the Moon, where crystalline spheres turned endlessly at the beck of angels. This was the dream of immortality. Universal, apparently, among the peoples of the Earth,

The corollaries of immortality were massive tombs and temples, hereditary kingships, infallible popes, Truth with a capital T -- the reassurances of permanency.

But nature is not so enamored of fixity.
Two things of opposite natures seem to depend
On one another, as a man depends
On a woman, day on night, the imagined

On the real. This is the origin of change.
Winter and spring, cold copulars, embrace
And forth the particulars of rapture come.
The new paradigm is evolution. Whatever our new supreme fiction will be, it must be inconstant. Death is the engine of complexification and diversity. Without death, there is no natural selection. As the microbiologist Ursula Goodenough says: "It was the invention of death, the invention of germ/soma dichotomy, that made possible the existence of our brains." Inconstancy is the rejuvenation of the universe, the architect of our loves and raptures.

The "immutable" celestial spheres, we have discovered, roil with change. Stars live and die, and in their dying seed the universe with the elements of life. Our telescopes record their comings and goings in images of breathtaking beauty. The loss of immortality is the price we pay to have our minds engage with the universe of the galaxies and the DNA, the grand unfolding of the river out of Eden. Ripe fruit falls; we savor it, the juices dribble down our chins.
...The freshness of transformation is
The freshness of the world. It is our own,
It is ourselves, the freshness of ourselves...
This too will be part of the supreme fiction. Write it down.

(Tomorrow -- It must give pleasure.)