It flew under the radar this week, but I finished a thing.
Actually it’s not true that it flew under the radar… it was all over the radar. I just wasn’t quite sure how to process the jumble of feelings I was having about it.
I finished the novel that I’ve been in permanent purgatory with for the past … I don’t even know how long. Two, three years? Lost chapters, stalled edits, a shattering of my confidence in my abilities as a writer, a return to form, another stall, getting overwhelmed with other projects, uh, COVID… it felt like I would never finish.
But I finished. And I’m actually going to let some people read it.
And I told myself I’d take at least a week off to decompress but … spoiler alert, I did not do that. I started immediately writing something new. But not a novel. Not that I’m done writing novels, but I wanted to get back to my roots, maybe do something for my students. So I’m working on a new play.
It’s nothing much yet, but it’s got me writing like crazy again the past few days. (After so long in the revision phase, it feels like flying to be drafting something NEW again.)
Anyway, I’m still here, still working, over in that dark corner where you can’t see me.
I’m as interested in pressing on with life as we know it and as it must go on as the next person.
But how, honestly, seriously, are we supposed to pretend things are anything like normal in a world where things like this can happen?
This is lawless third-world-country stuff.
I can’t even think.
I was hoping to do a play with a little bit of a political message this year, but my administration felt there is too much tension out there right now, people are “a little too crazy” and they shut me down.
At first I thought they were maybe a little too sensitive.
We are less good at returning them safely and responsibly to earth after their usefulness is at an end.
So we have sent thousands of satellites into orbit, and … okay, brief detour. Look, space is big, okay? (Really, mind-bogglingly big, to quote Douglas Adams.) Big like the ocean is big, except bigger, and seemingly infinite. Except not infinite, because only the part of space that’s particularly close to Earth is particularly useful to us most of the time. So even though space feels infinite, the part of space that we are using is decidedly, well, not.
(If you’re interested in such things, this site is pretty cool.)
So. We have sent thousands of satellites into orbit, but because space seems so big, we haven’t been particularly arsed about what happens to these satellites when they break down or when they serve their purpose or for whatever reason stop functioning or are no longer needed. “Just let it float away out there,” we seem to have told ourselves, “it won’t matter. Space is big.”
Which is true, until you consider that those thousands of satellites are, each of them, travelling at upwards of thousands of miles an hour. Which is, uh, really fast. And as you will remember from high school physics, even a tiny, insignificant object traveling at a speed that’s, uh, really fast, can do significant damage to your precious vital organs. (This is how guns work and why Americans love them!) Or to our precious space satellites.
Space is mostly empty, but it’s not all empty, and there are always bits of rock from distant asteroids or shards of ice from passing comets or celestial teapots from philosophy classes whizzing around out there, and occasionally, one of these tiny little things will hit another tiny little thing out in space with a force like a couple hundred pounds of TNT. This turns the little things involved into even smaller little things that then fly off, themselves at thousands of miles per hour, to smash into other things. (If you saw Gravity, you saw this effect in action, to horrifying results!)
This effect can cascade quickly. A satellite smashed by a meteor scatters its guts across low-earth orbit and takes out several other satellites, which scatter their guts and … you get the idea. Experts believe that, if not somehow dealt with, the resultant chain reactions will eventually all but prohibit travel in space for satellites, let alone people — to go into space would be the equivalent of stepping into a galactic shooting gallery.
And how do we deal with it?
The answer right now seems to be a collective shoulder shrug with a lot of uncomfortable throat-clearing.
This is, to put it bluntly, a problem.
And it’s a perfect metaphor for so many of the problems facing society today. Our blind rush to one-up each other, to get those satellites up there without worrying about how to safely get them down again, is literally choking the skies to the point that nobody can use them.
I don’t have a solution for this. But I learned about it several years ago and every now and then, I think about it, and it worries me. I just thought you ought to know about it, too. So I don’t have to worry alone.
As if all of us didn’t have enough to worry about.
We got one of those church mailers the other day. You know, envelope written out by hand, and inside there’s a brochure with a smattering of scripture and a blurb about the church, usually with a little note like “hope to see you there!” These I put directly into the trash.
At least, that’s what I thought this was. In this one, however, was the obligatory brochure, but also inside was a little handwritten letter. “in these trying times…” “need for community more than ever…” “God’s love will provide…” all that stuff.
And, I dunno, maybe because my neighbor went to the trouble of sitting down and writing out this letter (and for goodness’s sake, I imagine he wrote out hundreds — our neighborhood is huge), I felt compelled to read it.
And because I’m a godless heathen, I also feel compelled to respond.
Here is the letter I will not be sending in return.
Thank you for your invitation.
I will not be attending your church. I do not think you should attend your church anymore either. You rightly point out that the world is in disarray and that we are isolated due to Covid. If you think that God is the answer to all these problems, I must ask you — where has God been up until now? Is it not Her will that all this should have transpired exactly as it has?
Are not the 200,000 American deaths from Covid part of God’s handiwork? If not, why has She not saved those who have died, or answered the prayers of those who have lost friends and loved ones? Is not the animosity so many Americans feel for their countrymen of a different political persuasion exactly as God intended? If not, an all-powerful God could surely unite us. Is our isolation due to the outbreak not God’s will? If not, why has She cursed us with such a deadly and highly contagious plague?
And is it God’s will that we now congregate, in an enclosed space and in great numbers, to aid in the transmission of this plague, to our entire community?
God is not the answer to our problems. Only we can help ourselves, and I will not bring my family to a super-spreader event to hear tales and celebrate the glory of an invisible creature who “loves us” but who also visits such terrible suffering upon us. I advise you likewise to abstain from such endeavors.
Your godless heathen neighbor
My dad told me recently that I sometimes lack tact.
But if somebody’s gonna send me a hand-written letter, I feel like they at least deserve a response.
Rest assured, I will not send this letter. But it is what I will be thinking when I compose something a little less harsh.
Slightly off-topic: I know *I* see these things and simply toss them in the bin, and think no further about it. I imagine most people do the same. I wonder what the sentiment in my neighborhood would be if I put out an Atheist brochure of the same tenor?
Something tells me it would not be nearly as charitably received. In fact, I wager I might have some God-loving souls knocking on my door or complaining to the HOA.
Within the last 8 hours at work, I’ve had no less than two major long-term projects fall apart with no discernible way forward.
I’m not surprised, because everything is terrible in 2020, and to be fair, I was kind of expecting one or both of the projects to come apart at some point. COVID gonna COVID, after all. But I wasn’t expecting to get hit with both in the space of just a few hours. That’s a gut-punch.
Sort of makes me wonder what the last few months have been all about, makes me feel aimless, useless, powerless.
It’ll pass, I’m sure. But not a great look for the start of the week.
This morning I mused that we should just rename Monday to “BS”. (The full word, of course, not the two-letter-euphemism.) Not BS-day, just BS. “That meeting? I think it’s scheduled for BS.” “Weekend’s over, time for some more BS.”
I did not particularly intend to be prophetic, but the world is funny like that sometimes.
Oh, and let’s not forget my beloved-and-behated Atlanta Falcons play tonight, so more pain is in the offering!