Which is of course, the last (?) line from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Which in my interpretation is about mankinds journey of discovery as we, or at least our consciousness for now, attempts to move beyond the confines of this tiny little world, in a tiny little corner of the vast universe. A universe that stretches so far beyond our world that we literally cannot comprehend it, a universe so vast that our minds tend to retreat in shock back to our little world when we attempt to contemplate it. It appears at first glance to be cold and harsh and hostile to the perceived needs of we little squirming corporeal entities, it appears to be filled mostly with what we would call nothing. And yet this cold harsh universe is what gave birth to everything….in particular, for the purposes of this essay, everything that we call beauty.
Like everything else it seems, the way we look at it and relate to it depends on our individual perception of it and how we react to it, Is it a cold and harsh universe, unforgiving and deadly? Or is it the beautiful and beneficent giver of all life and beauty as we know it? That, like everything else, depends on how we, as individuals and as the human race….. view it.
Which brings us to….Thanks Giving.
Traditionally Thanksgiving is a holiday on which we celebrate The Pilgrims, who were known (derisively, as it turns out) as the Puritans, journeying to America. Viewed in one way, the traditional way, it is about a band of people fleeing to a new world to escape persecution, and then conquering that new world and transforming it into the America we know today.
Viewed in a different way, it is about a group of assholes that considered themselves so Holier Than Everybody that they were kicked out of Europe, came here and were saved from starvation by friendly but savage and ungodly neighbors….who they then proceeded to wage genocide against in order to steal and rape the land that those “savages” viewed themselves as being the caretakers of, caretakers for….the universe…. that created them and all the beauty of the world.
The Puritans…the Pilgrims… had, in comparison to most of the rest of the world, a very narrow, small, and harsh view of the universe, and this tiny world that is contained within it. They thought it was all ruled by a harsh and jealous and judgmental God who lurked and watched and waited for transgressions to occur so that he could send that transgressor to a fiery Hell to be punished in an eternity of pain and suffering. They told this to every person they met and urged them all to adopt their view of the world or suffer these eternal agonies. They INSISTED in fact, that others share the same narrow harsh view that the world existed to test and punish us all, should we fall short of THEIR view of the standards of the universe. Which they called God. Anyone who did not share their view was regarded as unholy, ungodly and savage. In their view, these people….these other creations of the universe, were …less… than them. And thus, essentially, fair game. Which they, to this day, hunt down and kill if it is, in their view, necessary. Their interpretation, their view, is that if you do not agree with their view, that if you do not think as they do, or even look like they do, that their own God’s instruction….Thou Shalt Not Kill….did not, and does not apply.
And we are their descendants. And we, our society and our culture, are the descendants of their view.
Or at least, are engaged in a struggle NOT to be.
On this day of giving thanks, I wish to give thanks that …..perhaps….their view is fading. And that as their very narrow, harsh and cold view, which once filled and conquered the world fails and fades….that there is now room for a new view to emerge. I wish to give thanks that as that very small and narrow view fades, there may be room for us, the human race, to expand our view.
To expand it from us versus them. To expand from viewing the world and the universe as a harsh and cold thing where we must fight and kill to survive. To expand it, perhaps, into a shared view in which we are all in this together, and into a view where the universe …or God, if you will… is not a malevolent force that tests and punishes us. We have the opportunity now to expand our view of the universe into something different, something new, into, perhaps, the view that this is a grand adventure of exploration and evolution. A shared adventure through which we grow and gain, much as the adventure that led the Pilgrims to the shores of America. But this time the shared adventure is not shared only by a small group of people but by all of the human race, and that we are not setting out to conquer and tame the universe, but to learn to live in harmony and peace with it, to share it’s beauty and it’s bounty with all of creation.
And the bounty is there, if we choose to view it that way. Because as we look out into the universe we can see it, we can view it, in two ways. As full of the vast, cold, and deadly nothingness of empty hostile space.
Or ……as full of stars.