Tuesday, January 1, 2013


When I first came out to my family as an atheist, a multitude of emotions preoccupied me. I pushed through this time by listening to "Glorious Dawn" from Symphony of Science. On this day, there is one line from that song that is resonating in my mind; it is the bridge in which Carl Sagan's autotuned voice is singing "how lucky we are to live in this time, the first moment in human history when we are, in fact, visiting other worlds".

What I have always loved about Sagan is neither passion for science and reason nor his warm, optimistic nature, though I find both of these qualities admirable. The feature that keeps Carl Sagan on my list of inspirational people is his ability to break out of the memorizing hustle and bustle of human life and look at the bigger picture. Imagine the earth from lightyears away and see it for what it is, a small, rocky ball in space only as bright as the light it can reflect. Imagine the people living on that rock, creatures the likes of which may not exist anyplace else. There is no reason why we SHOULD exist and yet we do. We are able to look upon ourselves and contemplate our existence. From this view, we may be inspired to utter the words "how lucky we are".

I understand that the vastness of space and the meagerness of our presence therein does not resonate with everyone. Let's zoom in further. Think about the inner workings of your own mind, the fact that so many processes are working right now to keep you alive without your knowledge or control. Think about the fact that the small mass of neurons in your skull have lead us to ask questions of consciousness that have yet to be answered. Recall that every memory you hold dear, every ounce of love, hate, anger, compassion, joy and sorrow that you have ever felt originates from that conscious and can be lost in an instant with the proper injury. Look that the sleek, sophisticated piece of technology in front of you and be reminded that it was invented by a human mind just like yours. How can we not understand the words "how lucky we are"?

As an activist, I have met many, many people who care about other people. They have high standards and are often discouraged then they see the terrible deeds their fellow humans do. I, too, am guilty of complaining about how much the world seems to suck and how the people in it are continually screwing things up. It has been a difficult year; there have been shootings, hurricanes, incompetent and frightening politicians in power, persecution and prejudice. I lost friends, witnessed a person be hit by a car, watched the lives of family members fall apart, went to the hospital for psychiatric reasons and wished I were dead more times than I can count. But somewhere between these bad things, there were good things as well.

My brother graduated from high school and got into his first choice university, I was elected president of the SSA, I went to Reason Rally, Women in Secularism and a multitude of other secularist events where I met incredible people. I fell in love this year. I saw a dilapidated Detroit neighborhood that rebuilt itself because the people there refused to let it die. I stopped seeing myself as a child with no future.

I realize now that I am lucky, not because good things happen to me all the time, but because I have the means to work through the bad things even when they do happen. I have my own mental faculties, I have the people around me who care and I have technology and systems created by others to help me. We all have things to be thankful for. This year, I hope that I can remember this more often.

It has become commonplace in the atheist community to celebrate "solstice" as the ancients did rather than Christmas. If this is going to become I custom, I think that it's prudent to recall that the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. It is a day when the earth is more deprived that usual of the light that it needs to desperately to support life. Still, people have always believed that the solstice should be celebrated. This is not because of the darkness surrounding them at that time. It is because when the darkness ends, to return to the words of Carl Sagan, "a still more glorious dawn awaits".

My New Years wish for you is that you will find the next dawn to be more glorious than the last.

1 comment:

  1. Well said and as a fellow atheist I too tend to forget about the good things in my life and dwell on the bad ones. My resolution this year will be to remember and celebrate the good ones.
    Thank you


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