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Late yesterday, we drove down to Kathryn's parents' place, where we filmed last weekend. I'd hoped being away from the city might help the darkness that's been creeping back over me the past week or so. I know the meds are still working, even if it feels like they're not. Anyway, yeah, so we went to the farm. And at first I did have hope. I napped yesterday evening in the room I find safe and peaceful. But that was it. There was nothing else about the visit that helped, and that brief lifting of the veil dissolved very quickly.

But I did see a sky with far less light pollution. The stars I half forget are there to provide perspective. Which I suspect is one of the main reasons human beings are spewing so much energy to drive away the night. They know what the stars mean (even if only unconsciously, in that hindmost reptilian-part of their brains), and it terrifies them. At four-thirty ayem, I was watching the moon rise through the trees.

We played with the great beast that is Spider Cat. We fed the chickens. We saw deer. The frog that lives in the koi pond. The apple trees dying for another winter.

None of it did much of anything for the anger and blackness. Every year, there are fewer and fewer things that help. There is a darkness the meds can never touch, and even my psychiatrist knows that. Kathryn certainly knows. I'd burn it out if I could. I'd fill my eyes with the sheep-blank stares I see on most human faces, or I'd fill it with the ancient sanity of starlight.

Okay, enough of that for now. I'd "friends lock" this, except it would still go up on Facebook and Twitter, and LJ seems to have made it impossible to shut off the cross-posting feature I switched on a long time ago.

I still find myself hating the iPad. I think some people have misunderstood. I do not hate the iPad because it is a device somehow substandard to similar mobile devices. I hate that I needed to waste money on it, and that, no matter how hard I struggle to the contrary, it will be the vehicle of additional time displacement. This has nothing to do with Apple. The iPad is all shiny shiny and shit. It works like a dream. It's just something no one* on earth needs (or anything similar manufactured by another company), no matter how much they may "need" it.

I still find myself loving the work we did last weekend, and missing everyone who was here and helped to make the magic.

I'm considering – well, actually in the earliest stages of planning – two more Kickstarter projects, both for 2012. Now that Spooky is entering the final stages of the process of completing our "Tale of the Ravens" project, and now that I see The Drowning Girl Kickstarter yielding such fruits as it is yielding. We have had such amazing success with Kickstarter (thank you). One would be a boxed, two volume limited-edition set of hardbacks of both The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl, with lots of tipped in color illustrations, facsimile documents, expanded text, appendices, and so forth (because, you know, there's time for these projects hemorrhaging from my asshole). It would be a very expensive undertaking, but it would be worth the expense and time, if I could make it happen. It would probably be limited to 500 signed and numbered copies. Maybe 26 lettered copies.

Anyway, the other project is one I actually began working on, conceptually, a year ago. A short film, a vignette of the sort you'd make of a Sirenia Digest vignette. A siren washed up and dying at the end of the world, and it might overlap territory explored in "The Bone's Prayer." That series of personal apocalypse stories. This would actually be a far simpler and far cheaper project than producing the books.

These are maybes.

Oh, we saw Kevin Smith's Red State last night, which I say is an unreservedly brilliant film, and which must be seen. Right now, Netflix is streaming it. It's a terrifying and sobering exploration of belief and the consequences of belief taken to extremes, the consequences of blindly following...anyone or anything. Only following orders. Only following a man. Only following a "god." There is a moment when the film almost veers into the supernatural that is the most genuinely chilling bit of film I've seen since Sauna.

Now...

*Amended to "not everyone."
greygirlbeast: (europa)
So, yeah. To quote Yervant Terzian, the David Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and former astronomy department chair at Cornell University (taking the position after Sagan's death), "Carl was a candle in the dark. He was, quite simply, the best science educator in the world this century. He touched hundreds of millions of people and inspired young generations to pursue the sciences."

I discovered the works of Carl Sagan when I was still in high school, probably around 1980 or so. PBS was airing Cosmos, and it absolutely blew me away. I even went out and bought the Vangelis soundtrack (on vinyl; I still have it). At the time, I was in the middle of that messy divorce from the Xtianity that had so dominated and stifled my childhood, and I wanted nothing in the world but to spend my life studying the genuine mysteries of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth. And, along with Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan gave me the road map I needed. After the wonders of Cosmos, I backtracked and read Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1974) and The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1978). Contact came along in 1985 and pleased me immensely, as it articulated so many of my hopes and curiosities. Only recently have I read Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), published only a month or so before his death, and I still haven't gotten around to the posthumous volume, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996).

Sagan's work — as a scientist, as a humanist, as a rationalist, as an enemy of ignorance and superstition, a peace-activist, and freethinker — had such a profound and far-reaching effect upon me that I cannot possibly hope to sum them up here. He showed me that there's good reason to believe that life is common in the universe, and that even our own solar system may harbour it in places other than the Earth. He helped me to see the beauty of Nature and that there is no greater wonder. He helped me learn the difference between science and pseudoscience. Very few men or women have had such a tremendous influence upon the path my life has taken. Ultimately, I think the best I can do here is to provide a few of my favorite quotes from Sagan. He will always speak for himself better than anyone else might speak for him:

The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.

from "Wonder and Skepticism", Skeptical Enquirer Volume 19, Issue 1, (January-February 1995)

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and, I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994)

The choice is with us still, but the civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and the sky. In our tenure of this planet we've accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders — all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we've also acquired compassion for others, love for our children and desire to learn from history and experience, and a great soaring passionate intelligence — the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the cosmos, an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars. There are not yet obvious signs of extraterrestial intelligence, and this makes us wonder whether civilizations like ours rush inevitably headlong to self-destruction. I dream about it, and sometimes they're bad dreams.

from Cosmos (1980)

Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.

from Cosmos (1980)

—————

That says a lot. More wonderful things than I shall likely say in all the years of my life. And I just want people to remember this man who was worth remembering, who showed me that we really are, all of us, star stuff.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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