Photo by Anna Reavis
“The universe is not all about us, about our behavior and our destiny; we are only a tiny piece of something inconceivably larger. And that should not make us shrink in fear. Rather, we should embrace the world in wonder and gratitude and awe.”
from The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
My normal reading pattern has been in disarray of late. The divergence began when I read a work of nonfiction entitled The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt. While I enjoyed the work and found it interesting, it was hardly escapist summer reading. Then I looked for escape in Serena by Ron Rash and ended up in a place and time and with people I didn’t want to be. This week, I’ve started and dropped five different books, looking for something to “take.” No luck. Sometimes, my stress and irritation level eradicate my focus, which just makes me more stressed and irritable. When I need escape the most, it flees from me.The most important lesson I took from The Swerve was a reminder of humanity’s bent to let fear and ignorance overpower enlightenment. We see this in all ages and places among all people. We want to hunker down in a shell of what we “know” and reject without thought anything new and challenging. And of course, there are always opportunistic demagogues feeding these fears because that is their only way to power and recognition. It seems our default is, as Greenblatt terms it, “superstitious fears,” because they are easy to embrace and require no effort of logic on our part. Curiosity, thought, logic, these things are not dangerous. It is their opposites that keep us in the dark, that keep us from fully embracing our potential as a species. It seems a lesson we will never learn.