Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Cost-Benefit Analysis

The loss of innocence is the price of truth.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Why are Things Different?

At sunset my wife and I often have dinner at the beach.

We drive a quarter mile from our home--which is situated not far from the beach--down a canyon road; we cross the ocean highway, and park...for free...in the city parking lot--we are seniors, after all. Perks are offered for longeivity. We take a picnic basket and two low-slung deck chairs from the trunk, lock up the car and make our way across the sand, to a dry section closest to the wet-sand water line.

I admit to being a bit misanthropic; I always want to sit furthest from any other people (although there aren't that many that time of night, anyway, which is usually about an hour and a half before summer sunset), and my wife kindly caters to my somewhat misanthropic wishes. We set our chairs facing the ocean but where we can still see the mountains. We set out a blanket; my wife takes out the delicious food she has prepared a half hour ago special for the occasion, the cheap bottle of white wine we buy at Trader Joe's, and we intermittently chat--we still have things to talk about, even after 44 years together--we eat and watch the sun set over the mountains as it takes its inevitable downward path into the sea.

The sky that day was absolutely devoid of clouds; its bright blueness was vibrant, clear, massive and unmarred. Soon my consciousness was interrupted by many flecks of black and grey as they soared across its tranquil backdrop: the specks were birds. Several types, floating, seeking food in the ocean below, some diving into the water, some landing at waters edge, pecking at recently wave-deposited life forms that would serve as their sustenance for another day.

Watching them I thought of God...or evolution: it didn't matter which...My focus was too much on 'why'? I thought of myself, my wife, my children, the whole globe floating out there in the blueness, and wondered 'why?'...why are we all so different?...why do birds fly when we walk? Why does my wife and look different from everyone else and why do we look different from each other? Why are there so many kinds of birds? Why are no two specks of sand or flakes of snow on earth the same? I silently asked God or evolution those questions.

All these creatures, the eating and the eaten...Why so many forms? Why have the molecules from which we are all formed created so many combinations?

I accept: that at the beginning of time there was the Big Bang...or God made the world. Once again, I really don't cate which. But what happened after that...and more importantly: why so complicated? Why didn't the molecules--or the four basic elements in the structure of the universe--we are down to four, now, right?--remain in their simple elemental state? If we're talking evolution, why did the elements arrange and then rearrange themselves up in such seeming infinite combinations, to be eventually rendered asunder at some point in their existence, their equilibrium, or molecular balance changed once and for all into soemthing else?

Why do 'things in motion tend to stay in motion; and things at rest tend to stay at rest'? In human terms, why is something born, and more importantly, why should something be born only to die? Why are there so many birds, humans, sand, parking lots, dinner plates? Why is there so many galaxies? Why is Pluto little and Jupiter large? What made universal differences unavoidable and change inevitable in the overall scheme (or lack of a scheme?) of things? Did the original four elements run into--or God confront--something tangible...and weere there so many tangibles...that made so much universal variety necessary? The answer simply can't be: God's need for infinite praise drove him to create almost infinite forms. Or that evolution was a priori destined for complexity. Because...if so...why, again?

The sun set over the mountains. The dusk air grew instantly chilly. The birds didn't seem to notice. They continued to dive and land, feed and seek.

We had finished eating and drinking. The beach had emptied of other people, other than a final family of four, a wife, a husband, and two little girls who had been for the last half hour or so lovingly allowed by their parents to run naked in the surf, squatting, letting their little perfect bottoms be tickled by the final gasp of each succeeding wave. They were leaving also.

As my wife and I walked back to the car, we found the sand was a little more difficult to navigate now. We had been sitting in the low deck chairs and our hamstring muscles had tightened appreciably, as sitting too long often does to people of our age. We eventually arrived at the car, we deposited the picnic basket in the trunk, brushed the sand from our feet, drove out of the parking lot, across the highway, up the hill, and to our own particular...and unlike-anyone-else's home...in the canyon.