Hallo again to all.
After bouts of heaviness these last few weeks for reasons irrelevant at the moment, we have been left feeling a bit like a hamster in a wheel. With hopes of distracting ourselves and possibly reducing feelings of stagnation, we started rereading some light favourite books. Books which in the back of our mind we have remembered enjoying and filling us with light and giggles, though we couldn't quite remember why—in some cases we are revisiting books decades after the initial readthrough.
We find it interesting the things we missed the first (or second, or third) time we read these words and imagined these places, some far off, some not so far away. Many of our laughs and tears are the same ones we remembered from the first time we read these books. We still dance with Mary Lennox, and Colin Craven, and Dickon Sowerby in the garden, feel the tingling sensation of wonder as Mary discovers the garden for the first time, and embarrassingly sympathize with her inability to understand the local maid Martha. We feel our faces redden with embarrassment with poor Jane Eyre as she gets scolded for things she didn't do (as we remember feeling as children), and the satisfaction of following dear Watson's narrative while Holmes solves murder upon murder. But we are also grateful for the ability to reread to find those things we missed before. Usually we find them, or are told of them when we most need these new perspectives.
The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. To explain—since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation—every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.
The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife. Trin Tragula—for that was his name—was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.
'Have some sense of proportion!' she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day. And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex—just to show her. And into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.
To Trin Tragula's horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.
From Chapters 11-12 of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams.
A priest friend of ours summarized what happens next:
But the Vortex meets its match in the person of Zaphod Beeblebrox, a two-headed guy with a huge ego who among other accomplishments became President of the Galaxy just so he could steal the new super-secret spaceship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive. Zaphod goes into the Vortex, and instead of being snuffed out by the news of how inconsequential he is in the big scheme of things, he emerges thirsty, hungry, and ready to party.
The astonished executioner asked how he survived the experience. For Zaphod, it was quite simple—he had:
“seen the whole universe stretching to infinity around him —everything. And it had come with the clear and extraordinary knowledge that he was the most important thing in it.”*
Curious, isn't it? A whole universe and rather than being destroyed by the reality of one's own insignificance, in the vastness of the universe, realizing one's vast significance.† The universe is massive, but we have our place, we are named, with a mark, as if looking at a directory which states 'you are here.'
But what of it? We find ourselves now a specific hamster in a wheel, perhaps named, perhaps at a pet store, still running in place.
'I hate it!' Charles Wallace cried passionately. 'I hate the Dark Thing!'
Mrs. Whatsit nodded. 'Yes, Charles dear. We all do. That's another reason we wanted to prepare you on Uriel. We thought it would be too frightening for you to see it first of all about your own, beloved world.'
'But what is it?' Calvin demanded. 'We know that it's evil, but what is it?'
'Yyouu hhave ssaidd itt!' Mrs. Which's voice rang out. 'Itt iss Eevill. Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarrkknesss!'
'But what's going to happen?' Meg's voice trembled. 'Oh, please, Mrs. Which, tell us what's going to happen!'
'Wee wwill cconnttinnue ttoffightt!'
Something in Mrs. Which's voice made all three of the children stand straighter, throwing back their shoulders with determination, looking at the glimmer that was Mrs. Which with pride and confidence.
'And we're not alone, you know, children,' came Mrs. Whatsit, the comforter. 'All through the universe it's being fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it's a grand and exciting battle. I know it's hard for you to understand about size, how there's very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy. You think about that, and maybe it won't seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and its a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy. You can be proud that it's done so well.'
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to put it out.
See you next week, when we will be here, as always.
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