The Long Now

Those first pictures of earth from outer space gave us a real sense of belonging to something much bigger than our immediate surroundings. This exposure to "the big here" helped us understand the importance of taking care of the earth and how we fit into our universe. Those pictures don't have the same impact now. We've seen special effects in movies and pictures that have been "photoshopped" so that the impact of seeing the earth from space isn't the same as it was thirty years ago.

The folks at The Long Now have tried to do the same with time that those early pictures did with place. If we are part of a "Big Here" we will treat our planet differently. If we are part of a "Long Now" we will treat our brief lifespan differently. We don't have a right to deplete things our children's children might need.

Cars and then airplanes and then space ships change our concept of distance. We can drive across the U.S. in days and fly across in hours. There is a massive discontinuity in getting on a plane in one location and sitting back for a couple of hours, reading a book, seeing a movie, and having a meal and getting off that same box in a whole different place.

Sure, that's the point of flying. You're  pretty disappointed when you get off of the metal box at the place you started. But there is a bit of magic there. It's not the same as a time machine. It's a place machine. It's a culture machine. It's a context machine.

I sound like a dope for marveling at something like an airplane which is not that technically challenging and is not new. I flew a lot. I was scheduled to fly to Denver the morning after Elena died. I was supposed to take four more trips in the couple of months between then and now.

My routine when landing was always the same. As soon as we were safely on the ground and the stewardess would say it was permitted to use cell phones I would call my mother-in-law. Not Kim. Not my own mom. My mother-in-law asked that I call to let her know I was safe. I never minded calling. Let her know she could stop worrying. Take a minute to acknowledge another safe flight. The end of being hurtled at hundreds of miles an hour from one place to another.

Being part of the Long Now and the Big Here reminds me I'm a blip on the screen. Not occupying much space. Not lasting very long.

It also reminds me that there are things much bigger than me that I can effect. It reminds me to ask "What do I do now" throughout the day without urgency or despair.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:25 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. I always call or SMS my husband Joey when I land, and I think he doesn’t understand why…it makes me feel actually grounded (and thankful again for my cellphone). Getting LongNow emails from Stewart Brand kind of makes me feel the same way, actually. I mean, Stewart Brand! I grew up on the Whole Earth Catalog and getting “back to the land” (which in a sense is what landing is all about…right 😉 )? Anyway, thanks for another grin.
    -Danese


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