Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bubble Ships

The famous astronomer, Edwin Hubble, after a lecture on astronomy particular, was approached by an elderly lady who, somewhat worried, came up to the professor and asked him how long it was he had said before the Sun would die, (either in a ball of fire or as a dark dwarf)?

"O, about ten billion years or so."

"Ten billion? O, I'm so relieved -- I thought you said ten million!"

On the face of it, it seems rather ridiculous -- a million or a billion! What difference does make to someone who won't be alive even a hundred years after asking her question? And yet, that is the way we think. We all know that we will die. But that everything around us must also go into the long night -- that scares us!

Whatever we may say that we believe, we don't really know that the ashes of eternity retain any memories...

(Hubble, by the way, onece said, "The Universe is not only stranger than we think -- it is probably stranger than we can think!")

I grew up and came of age in Poosah City, which the local residents will tell you enjoys a subtropical climate. "Sunshine State" sounds great in tourist brochures. However, besides 'roaches and 'skeeters, it also means the weather can change from sunshine to rain rather quickly.

To call it "rain" doesn't quite give the picture. At times, and rather suddenly, with little wind, it can start raining pitchforks, buckets, barrels and even wooden shoes...

When it rains like that, the water cannot run off the asphalt pavement fast enough and the road is covered with thin sheets of moving water as raindrops, the size of small berries, pop up small bubbles on the surface of the water.

These bubbles sail merrily along upon the streaming water until they, all of a sudden -- pop! -- and they disappear...

I was watching the phenomenon one afternoon when I was about fifteen years old when it struck me that the water on the street was like a river of time and the bubbles like our lives and consciousness...

Many years later, this experience returned to me, congealed into a snatch of words:
"Simmer rain on streets black asphalt,bubble ships on sheets of water..."
Does not our consciousness appear like that?

All of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thin bubble skin of water surface tension appears, containing, for a brief moment a small breath of wind -- the very same eternal wind that otherwise blows where it will...

Then: "Pop!" ...the bubble is gone...where did it go?

Any answer is pregnant with a following question: the essence of the bubble, is it in the water or in the air which the membrane (briefly) encloses? Or both? Or neither?

Similarly with our conscious awareness, what is it that contains it? Or, can we say that consciousness is "contained" in any "thing"?

[I hope to continue on this theme tomorrow]

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