Unimaginable Cosmic Violence

If you have not heard of the Christmas Cat of Icelandic lore, please familiarize yourself urgently here. Because what’s not to love, it’s cats and Iceland and Christmas.

What an amazing kitty, am I right? Eating children, advocating for the poorest among us, inspiring charity and social unity. Everything about it honestly just sounds so amazing. I’d love a scary story that not only says ‘be good’ like the whole coal thing, but that tells you to actively look out for others. Give them coats or you’re basically murdering them. Which, you know, doesn’t have any bearing on the state of things these days, since all children are safe and warm and fed…

Anyway, I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. I really enjoyed seeing and spending time with my family. Baking. Watching movies (would recommend Klaus on Netflix). Finding some peace, love, and joy. Thinking about the wonder and magic of the incarnation of the God of the universe.

So I don’t really want to do a year in review, or even a decade in review, but I’m going to have a little moment if that’s alright.

Sometimes, especially in the midst of a job search (all too frequent in my adult life thus far), I just feel like a nobody. I have to remind myself that I have Accomplishments and Deeds that I have Done and Experiences that I have Had. Pardon me for a sec while I have some self-affirmation.

In this past decade, I have: graduated high school, gotten a BA, and gotten an MPhil. I have lived in three countries and visited many others. I have reached over 900 days on Duolingo (and counting). I have come out as gay (which I will never tire of saying, probs). I’ve become a brother-in-law and an uncle. I worked jobs and learned things and was successful in many different ways.

But the other side of this coin is that, no matter my accomplishments and deeds and experiences, I am worth the same. I feel better when I remember that I have Done Things that hold meaning in society but it’s also good to remember that none of those things give me any additional value. I have value because I am.

You have value because you are, too. Watching It’s a Wonderful Life yesterday reminded me, it’s good to have dreams–even wild dreams–but you are not your dreams and achieving them or not achieving them or changing them doesn’t make you any less. Dream dreams and live life and when things aren’t going your way at all, just remember that you are loved.

I don’t know if you’re aware, but NASA recently made their entire image and video archive publicly available and internet-searchable, which is a strong yes from me. You can find it here, and search for fun things like “comet” or “Triton” or “Ursa Major.” Personally, the first thing I wanted to look at was nebulae.

I cannot science much at all, to say nothing of astronomy in particular, but I know pictures of nebulae are about the most intriguing, beautiful things out there. Very mysterious, in no small part because astronomical photography involves colors and things that represent things other than visible light so it’s wild. Anyway. I browsed pictures of nebulae for a while and read some of the little descriptions that NASA has kindly appended to each entry to try and make sense of what you’re looking at.

Of course, it’s all unintelligible to me regardless but I was arrested by a phrase they used when talking about the heart of the Crab Nebula. There, in a swirl of color and light indicating, apparently, electrons moving at nearly the speed of light spinning out of the magnetic field of a crushed star. Or something like that. In their words, this image of a neutron star bears silent witness to “extreme physical processes and unimaginable cosmic violence.”

I don’t know what the Crab Nebula was going through but let’s take it as an invitation to start the new year off right. If stars can explode and be that beautiful, then we can live our lives beautifully in any circumstance. Besides, unimaginable cosmic violence is how you get new stars.

Then the Traveller in the Dark

I woke up early on Tuesday morning absolutely convinced that it was Saturday. The week continued downhill from there. Things haven’t been that bad, I’m managing just fine. It’s more the idea, the concept, of doing work that has become so dreadful. In the event, it doesn’t bother me as much, but the anticipation (and everything else around it) is draining.

It snowed (yay!) on Tuesday afternoon but while the forecast predicted one to two inches, it ended up being the faintest dusting. I was, however, braced for that disappointment because life is disappointing. I was hoping to have a somewhat lighter schedule on Wednesday but instead my three hour intensive was immediately followed by four hours of phone classes. Not the worst–and, importantly, it’s balanced by only having my intensive next Wednesday–but a bit disappointing all the same.

In other news, it’s also very cold. You may have heard about the super freezing weather in the US and we’re apparently getting some of that too. I woke up this morning and it was 6 F and the low tonight is forecast to be 3. Which is very cold. There are no blizzard force winds but it is a step or two above breezy which isn’t helping either. I enjoy the cold in terms of staying in and doing nothing but being warm. However, when I do have to go someplace, for example, work, it makes my fairly short walk pretty unpleasant.

We also got together to finish the second half of Two Towers on Wednesday night, having watched disk one last Saturday. Absolutely tremendous, as always. And some of us painted our nails, I was going for ‘something dark and wintry but that could not be mistaken for black’ and we ended up with this gorgeous color between forest green and mint that is exactly right. Of course, I did a terrible job actually painting them (this being my third time) but it still looks okay. Though it’s already chipping.

I was going to title this post something about being unfortunate, or disappointing, or just generally meh. But I went with a line from the lesser-known third verse of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (there are five). Because it doesn’t take much to keep hope alive and, though there are no stars in Seoul, sometimes a single snowflake on the tongue is all the sustenance that it requires.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

Celestial Songs

  1. The Spheres from the Sunrise Mass – Ola Gjeilo
  2. Young Galileo – Mark Gresham
  3. Astronaut Anthem – Meredith Monk
  4. Underneath the Stars – Kate Rusby, arr. Jim Clements
  5. Stars – Ēriks Ešenvalds
  6. A Breathing Peace – Daniel Elder
  7. Northern Lights – Ola Gjeilo
  8. Madrigals for the Space Age – Lalo Schifrin
  9. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – Daniel Elder
  10. Choose Something Like a Star – Randall Thompson