Monday, November 15, 2010

But a Speck

The following is a rough essay I wrote after some heavy listening to This American Life.  I'd spent the summer before at a camp in the mountains, and sat for hours staring at the stars and discussing the wonders of the universe with a close friend.  During our talks, she and I mused about the wonders and horrors of life.  It is out of all this that the essay below evolved.

When the moon is new or only a sliver in the sky and no city stands to white wash the view, I frequently find myself gazing heavenward and marveling at the simultaneous futility and miracle of my existence. The Milky-way, the opposite side of our galaxy, stretching from the horizon and countless galaxies hiding behind each point of light, some so distant their image has yet to reach us, stars born and dying every moment, spewing from them the building blocks of the future, eons passing before a cloud of dust and gasses form into anything corporeal, and here I sit on my porch smoking cigarettes and listening to music, one of billions of specks on a tiny blue planet in a small solar system around a small yellow sun in one of a billion galaxies, many much larger, in an ever-expanding universe whose edges we will likely never know. And yet, nowhere in this vast expanse is there any creature exactly like me. None shares my exact combination of acids and proteins and synapses and memories and emotions and talents and skills and relationships and hopes and fears and dreams. Science tells us to respect tiny specks, because within them lies the potential for boundless wonders. We don't always know exactly why, but they tend to explode and rapidly expand until they are so great that their origins are infinitesimal, incomprehensible, and it is anyone's guess as to their true origin. By the time we are cognizant of the sheer magnitude of that former singularity, we are left grasping at our incomplete understanding of its nature to try and guess its origin. Right now, I am 25, single and barely scraping by on the meager wages of three part-time jobs in a city thousands of miles from the place I used to call home. Each day brings new fears and challenges. But I know it is only a matter of time before I will reach my critical mass and begin my own expansion. Its anyone's guess what will happen, and just as it is impossible to understand the true nature of the beginning looking back from a point so distant, so too, one cannot imagine the outcome while still sitting as a solitary speck. One day, I will look back and wonder how I ever came to be the world famous actor or the brilliant politician or the influential scientist or the beloved father and teacher, and this cramped little moment of my existence will seem impossible to reconstruct. Those who come after me, whose lives have been shaped by the precedent set at this primordial state, will never know for certain how they came to be the marvelous, singular specks they are. So for now, I smoke another cigarette, play another song, sit back and stare off into the night sky.

In Introduction

Welcome to the first post on my first blog ever.  I am bringing it to you as a long line of events in my life have finally come full circle to a point of deep introversion.  My life has been filled with many interesting experiences, some painful, some uplifting, some thought provoking, and I am finally capable of reflecting on them in concert, rather than as disjointed moments, taking me to my current station.

The name of my blog comes from a RadioLab podcast short by the same title.  The podcast is a D'var Torah discussing the Binding of Issac, using science, history, and politics as fodder for examination.  As much of my life has been spent silently suffering numerous painful experiences, hoping that one day I might see order in the chaos of existence, it seemed an appropriate title.

Much like the podcast namesake for my blog, the subject matter I will be utilizing in examination of my current circumstances will be quite broad.  Physics, biology, mathematics, psychology, political science and international relations theory, game theory, history, sociology, emergence theory, theology, and traditional Jewish sources have all had a part in my understanding of the world, and I intend to reference them as necessary during my discussions.  They are not, however, the focus of my blog, and while I intend to be as accurate as possible in my use of these disciplines, I am not an expert in any of them and I hope you will forgive any errors in my presentation.

My first posts will come in rather quick succession.  I already have some material prepared which will give some background and offer a window into my chaotic mind.  After two previously drafted statements have been published, I will spend some time writing a response to the RadioLab section referenced earlier.  Subsequent posts will come as thoughts fully materialize, and will not be on any periodic schedule, though I will do my best to make them relatively regular.

I will leave you with a very brief introduction to my life.  This is an anonymous blog, and I will be limiting personal details for my own anonymity, but I will share as much as I feel appropriate.  I was raised in a small township in the Midwest wrought with KKK members and Evangelical Christians.  The child of a mixed marriage, my father was raised in a conservative Christian family and my mother in a Conservative Jewish one.  I was brought up in a Reform synagogue.  As the only Jew in my very anti-Semitic school, I spent some time looking into religions outside Judaism during my early teen years before reaffirming my faith and taking on new stringencies in an effort to reevaluate the religion of my upbringing.  While still in high school, I came out to my parents as gay, and in response to their pressure and lack of support, I went back into the closet until recently.  During my time at university, I became quite involved in Jewish life and began exclusively attending Orthodox services and living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.  After graduation, I spent some time in Yeshiva, where I slowly came to terms with the fact, though not the reality, of my sexuality.  Over a year after leaving Yeshiva, I finally came back out to myself as a gay man, and have slowly shared this information with a handful of friends.  Since then, I have abandoned the religious practices which guided my life for nearly seven years.  I am now slowly recreating my Jewish identity and my relationship to the Jewish community.

I hope you enjoy my posts and find them interesting, insightful, useful, thought provoking, or at least worth consideration.  Please be respectful.  Know that some of my posts will be dealing with difficult material; I will do my best to warn you at the beginning of such posts in case the material might be too charged for you.

All the best.