Bends in an Arc
Funnel Cakes, Pmurt, Winchester, Virginia.
Have you tried to keep track of one wavelet moving across a lake’s rippling surface?
We are less than one hundred days away from the U.S. presidential election. This will be the fifth one in which I cast my vote, as a naturalized citizen. To be an American citizen and bring in President Obama felt exhilarating. I watched his inauguration during the same week that my university honored another personal hero, Father Fritz Lefontant, with a doctorate in Civil Law. The wave was on the up and up, and promised to take everyone with it.
How things have changed and turned.
Now the wave seems to have turned fully entropic.
There seems to be no bottom.
In reading a review of a book by astrophysicist, Katie Mack, about the end of the universe, something shifted for me: there is no bottom, top, side.
Just turns, just waves within waves; less about understanding how water moves in a lake by watching a wave, and more about how all that contains the water (geology + atmospherics + biosphere) is echoed in the wave form.
Understand not the wave, but the Wave.
The same reviewer, James Glieck (all of his reviews are worth reading!) points to Rev. Theodore Parker’s sermon, in which he talks about the arc of morality tending to bend towards justice. (Famously quoted by M.L. King among others.)
An arc is not a wave, but a wave may contain many arcs. And that is where we are now, I hope: a turn, another wavelet. Perhaps the country will reconsider itself, give itself a chance to make room for the contrary: an arc, Rev. Parker’s arc, may be so long, so vastly infinite, that it contains, and is only made of, waves, of many small differences that become fused into one infinite form (community?).
Yet…. returning to the sermon given by Rev. J. Mark Worth at the Harvard Unitarian Church, given a few days after the 2016 election results came out, leaves me feeling more despondent than ever by the depth of, and rotting swill in, our current political trough.
“I find it hard to believe in the degradation of a people: I do believe in stagnation and stupor. During the war, when the English radio and the clandestine Press spoke of the massacre of Oradour, we watched the German soldiers walking inoffensively down the street, and would say to ourselves” ‘They lookalike us. How can they act as they do?’ And we were proud of ourselves for not understanding.
Today, we know there was nothing to understand. The decline had been gradual and imperceptible. But now when we raise our heads and look into the mirror we see an unfamiliar and hideous reflection: ourselves.
Appalled, the French are discovering this terrible truth: that if nothing can protect a nation against itself, neither its traditions nor its loyalties nor its laws, and if fifteen years are enough to transform its victims into executioners, then its behavior is not more than a matter of opportunity and occasion. Anybody, at any time, may equally find himself victim or executioner.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre, in the 1958 preface to journalist Henri Alleg’s account of his torture by French forces during the Battle of Algiers.
Alleg, Henri. The Question, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 2006. pp. xxvii-xxviii