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Ten Things That Astonish Me

Ten Things That Astonish Me

Thanks to PS Pirro for the prompt for this post, asking us what still astonishes us; here’s my list:

  1. The realization that everything we think of as real is either just an appearance (like separate ‘things’ in space and time) or just a mental fabrication (like our ‘selves’). Scientists keep discovering this to be true, and even they find it too astonishing to believe, and keep looking for a different answer.
  2. The staggering diversity of complex life — from bats to jellyfish to water-bears to sharks to seeds. And birds!
  3. The complexity and resilience of the human (or any creature’s) body. And the fact that it’s not a ‘thing’ but a borderless complicity, a trillion trillion inseparable things, endlessly, coherently interacting.
  4. Fungi.
  5. Music — its effect on us, what makes it ‘music’, and the mysterious process of its composition.
  6. The evocative power of light — firelight, street-lamps, candlelight, the light of the sun (especially at dawn, at dusk, and reflected), the moon and the stars.
  7. Gaia — the evolution and complicity of all life on earth.
  8. The macroscopic and microscopic universe, which, I have to believe, are infinite. Go as far or as deep as you like, you’ll never find the end. It’s turtles all the way down, and all the way up.
  9. Electricity. (Or more precisely, electromagnetism.) We have no idea how it ‘works’. Neither do the eels who’ve employed it for seven million years, or the birds who’ve navigated by it for 150 million.
  10. Imagery — reflections in water, prints in the sand, photographs, and all forms of art that conjure up images — that ‘imagine’.

Yes, I know, nothing really in this list specifically about the human species, or its ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ or mental capacity or accomplishments or propensity to fall in love and persevere and make stuff. I am undoubtedly a misanthrope, but I see nothing extraordinary or astonishing about homo sapiens. Even our destructiveness is unremarkable.

But these more-than-human things — astonishing!

What would be on your list? No sarcasm please, though I’m sure it’s tempting; plenty of time for that later. Of human accomplishments, what would you rate as most astonishing? Language and how we’ve spread it? Some medical advance? The arrowhead and other weaponry? The control of fire and water?

photo by Mitchell Kaneshkevich

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Dave Pollard's chronicle of civilization's collapse, creative works and essays on our culture. A trail of crumbs, runes and exclamations along my path in search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works.

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