Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Word for the 33rd Year of Bridget Callahan is....

                "We assume Skylab is on the Planet Earth, somewhere" - Charles Harlan, mission controller

I am not what one would call particularly patriotic. Like any intelligent person I despair of any government being good for the people ever, I rail against the inadequacies of democracy and capitalism and consumerism. I feel oddly conflicted about the military industrial complex - like I hate it, and yet also understand it, and understand the reasons. I shop at Target sometimes. I choose convenience over discomfort a lot of the time. At the 4th of July concert, the orchestra played a medley of the different theme songs of the armed forces branches, and even though I recognized all the songs, I had no idea which one went with which branch. So that seems pretty American. I feel pretty American. 

And the thing is, on state holidays, I appreciate the experience of feeling the same feeling as a crowd, the surge of communal emotion. I would never go to a huge event expecting to actually enjoy the event. But I enjoy being around so many people with the same purpose. That's the sort of stimulation you have to seek out, and sometimes it's a big inconvenience because of parking and walking, beer prices and whatever else. But it's worth seeking out, it gives me a sort of restorative surge of hope. The Prince and I were talking this morning about his theory about art and artists, a spectrum where at one end are the people with a fundamental belief, a fixed point in their moral universe, that all of their work builds out from. And then on the other end are the nihilists and relativists, and then somewhere in the middle are the thirds, in a general purgatory of trying to gain a foothold on the slippery slope of perspective. I was working on my first drink of the day, and in my mind the spectrum is also heaven and hell, or also a macrocosmic view of the universe, versus the microcosmic snapshots, and then in the middle are the people like me, crawling back and forth, unable to reconcile the idea of a universal truth, but needing something more structured like a narrative. The people who want to believe in myth but can't believe in god. So what I'm saying is that events flooded with humanity gathered all together in one spot, that swings me back towards the fundamental belief end of the spectrum, and that side is definitely happier if not as realistically feasible.  Which is a convoluted way of saying I get off on crowds. Being in a city public square where there is no room to walk  or even sit on the street because of all people people people, and then everyone is facing the same direction and looking up at the sky intently, that's an insane kinetic directive, you can't help yourself, and then just like being carried out with a tide, you look back at everyone around you, and it feel illicit, swimming against the tide, and that's just as fun. 

The year I was born, 1979, is my favorite year. I feel sentimental loyalty just as much as the next average joe you know, I'm just as prone to irrational attachment as any super lucky, super prosperous, well educated white girl at the exact middle of her life. I have room in my life to think of sentiment. In 1979 Skylab was falling to Earth, and no one knew where, and it became a thing, to  think of yourself as the special one who might get killed by a piece of falling space junk. Because those were the days when things falling from space was a big deal, because there wasn't that much up there to begin with. Now we think its commonplace, this idea of the miles of debris floating up there, all our cell satellites, and tv, and gps, and google. Now it doesn't freak us out, the idea of orbit. But then, that year, space was full of fear. Its not that we understand it anymore today, but we've become more complacent, we've learned it doesn't matter if we care or not, that the trash from space will just fall and life will go one, and we need that trash up there cause that's how I'm able to check facebook from my phone, so if some guy in China gets knocked on the head by a piece of flotsam traveling faster than a jet place down from the cold purgatory of the upper atmosphere into the safe warm gravity field of the home planet, well then who cares? No one ever gets knocked on the head anyway. 

I wonder what would scare us these days. I remember when CERN was scheduled to start, everyone flipped out about the idea that it would create black holes, that the search for the "god" particle would lead to the destruction of mankind. That happens anytime scientific advancement gets any media attention, the world is now over obviously, the apes have reached too high. Nevermind we live with tiny black holes everywhere, all the time. I don't know if that's actually true, but I remember it from somewhere, and it rings true to me, to my vaguely mythic idea of how the universal fabric works, so I believe it. 

This July 4th, the anniversary of the War of 1812 too though no one gives a shit about that, the LHC discovered a new particle. It might be the Higgs Boson, it might not. I think if I were actually in any field affected by that, I would hope like crazy it wasn't, that it was something entirely new and unexpected, that would blow the Standard Model to bits, because fuck anything called the Standard Model, it stinks of leeches and flies spontaneously created from meat. 

The Prince and I sat around for hours, trying to figure out exactly what a Higgs field was. It involved a lot of youtube videos, and us trying to create crazily inaccurate metaphors for it in an attempt for our staunchly literary minds to understand math and theory. The problem was that every explanation only led to more questions, things we should have known from high school physics class, but had since forgotten. And the forgotten stuff bugged me most, the ideas that teetered right on the edge of my memory, but I couldn't quite grab them and bring them to the present, they remained in the fog, just shadows of a general concept of the Big Bang. So then I had to go back to remember how electrons reacted, and then what the Standard Model was, and finally, all the way back to the beginning, trying to remember what Mass as a word actually meant, Mass versus Matter versus Energy. 

Because in my mind, what we think of empty space is actually like the entire universe is suspended in a type of low tide jelly, when I move my arms around me, I am moving dimensions around, I am creating currents and waves of particles. 

Because space isn't space at all. It's full. Everything is full and thick and if I could just sense the activity of those particles, if I could tap into the subatomic dance of the universe, I would never feel alone. I would instead feel too crowded, to much in touch with everything around me, like actually touching it. So I'm okay with knowing this and yet still maintaining the illusion that I can be in an empty wide open space, all by myself, with the wind and sun. 

So I've been thinking a lot about space this year, personal space in crowds, the cold beautiful Space above our heads (and where I obviously come from, since duh, of course I'm a child of Skylab, of course I'm a child coagulated of alien spores and asteroid dust and all those ten thousand possible alien remnants) and then finally the space that doesn't exist, the space in between all our particles. The jelly we don't understand. It's a lot of reason to keep looking up and out. 

But I'm 33 now, it's my Jesus birthday, and against all the logic of age and time, I feel now I've got all the time in the world to think. Probably cause I'm not concerned with sex anymore, at least not as much. The universe is my boyfriend. 

I was trying to think of a new tattoo to get this year, a word of course, cause that's an established thing now, I will get a new word for each new year. And I thought about how last year when I thought of brave, it was partially because so many people were calling me brave for the urban exploration stuff, which isn't really bravery, actually. That's just me doing something you could to. But this year especially I've had wonderful people telling me I'm brilliant. Which is also not true. But like, I wish it were true. So that seems like a good aspiration for the start of an academic career, brilliance. I'll get it right below Brave. It will sort of suck that I seem to be on some alliterative kick, but we'll just make sure next year's word starts with an S or U or something. 

So this year We (me and my brain and my imagination, the holy trinity). we are going to be brilliant. We are going to take off like rockets. 


  1. Your jelly is the medieval concept of aether, or perhaps the Victorian concept of luminiferous aether. The latter was disproved right here in town, in an experiment most notable for being the biggest scientific failure, like, ever.


    I like how general human consciousness lags behind scientific theory. We kind of still think of atoms as mini-solar systems or the plum pudding model... not some weird statistical cloud. Our kids will get that. Their kids might have a shot at these bosii.

  2. Well that's the thing right, I have to try and conceive visually of these things because those are the tool I got. But it isn't aether I'm thinking off, it's more like a thick soup of possibilities, dimensions.


Who wants to fuck the Editors?