Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Assembly Reading 23 February 2014

Below is the text of my reading for Sunday Assembly, as well as the video that inspired me to it. It was a real honor (and a lot of fun) to be able to read the same day as Claire and Ben and of course, all the many volunteers that make Sunday Assembly possible at all.


Jules Verne said that reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them. Think about this: Over aeons, inert matter blindly assembled itself into things which can suffer and love, which can help each other, which can write haiku and taste wine. The same stuff makes up the sun and the rocks and forests and our minds. Continents slid apart, mountains grew and crumbled, dinosaurs turned into hummingbirds, a whale died and settled into the seabottom sand, only to be uncovered under the San Diego Zoo. All these things are like waves traveling down through time until enough converged that pieces of the universe awakened. And through those pieces the universe is experiencing itself, in this room, right now.

Now think about this: the world will keep spinning and the sun will keep burning and eventually, each of us will have a last sunset, and a last kiss, and we'll exit the stage one last time. So too, in some unimaginably distant future, will the set pieces themselves disappear - first the Sun, then even matter itself. If in five billion years the ground beneath us is intact and above water, if there is anything sitting on it watching the last of the sun's glow, we'll have the same luck imagining it as bacteria have of imagining us. If in 10^10^70th years there is still some medium floating in space somehow storing haiku and the taste of wine, it too will disappear forever as black holes swallow the last matter and protons themselves decay.

But finally think about this: the more we learn about this play, the less it seems to be about us. The more we learn about it the more it seems the actors are a tiny afterthought on a stage so huge that we're beneath notice. Yes, that is true, but it's also irrelevant. Because in this precious fleeting moment when some genes and memories have bound themselves together as YOU, YOU are here. You can suffer and love, and help others to suffer or love. You can write haiku and taste wine. That is all that can ever matter. In this moment you are part of the ongoing story of creation, making new waves to travel down through time, deciding what lines to deliver. It's an enormous responsibility but it's also a gift we have: it's the superpower of being alive. Let's use it well.

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