Wednesday, June 06, 2012

God's eye view

Another cross-country flight, but a new trajectory since I went direct from the AAC&U Institute near Ellicott City, MD. Baltimore-Houston-San Diego takes you from Navy to Navy by way of NASA, allowing for some unfamiliar knicknacks in stores ("1.21.2013: The end of an error") but with fascinating scenery pretty much the whole way, in grids, veins and whorls new to me, with the human interventions tapering off as we headed west. (The Klee-like second photo shows oil derricks, I think.)

But about the time of the Middle Earth-like landscape above (those velvet hills!) I was put in the space of airplane window epiphanies where I've seen the face of God in crosshatched ocean swells or leaf-like mountains dusted with snow. Interesting that this happens when I'm on a new course. The deserts I traverse on the JFK-SAN route are familiar, and feel like, well, home; but this terrain was new, and wondrous.
I wrote in my little pocket diary: Seeing the dry, rivuleted expanse below me, most of its patterns the kind you would not notice if walking them, and in the distance fractal doilies, loops and wrinkles and armadas of polka dots, all very dry and desolate yet somehow linked in a seamless tableau completely local and particular but also coursing with universality, I realize this desert world is how I understand reality to be. Was my understanding of the world formed by flyovers?

I pondered what this would mean. I considered my perpetual surprise and delight at seasons, at woods, even at flowers. I recalled my intuitive grasp of the idea of paysage, of the celebration of irreducibly particular "place" instead of the generic "space," and of Aboriginal Australian ideas of "country." I recalled my fascination at statistical patterns, patterns and alignments even in human events which nobody intends or even is aware of, and with Stuart Kauffman's idea that the splendid complexity of life is just the iteration of simple algorithms.I like the idea - a lonely desert idea, granted - that there are patterns in our lives of which we are not even aware: we stand in relation to all things, though we might never know how, or even that. And the presentiment that these patterns are to be found also in non-human and inanimate nature thrills me. These patterns seem to me deep and meaningful, mysterious and consoling. Like Matthew 10:29, Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father, without the sequel, Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows - there's no space for the comparison of value here, as everything is particular, irreplaceable.

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