“This then is life,
Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions.”
-- Walt Whitman, “Starting from Paumanok”
It’s fun for me to imagine how many billions of years it has taken for the universe to produce any particular moment – how many “throes and convulsions”, for instance, finally fashioned this moment of me sitting on this couch in Connecticut typing on this computer on this cold morning. “This then is life”, as Whitman wrote – this tumbling and tossing together of uncountable numbers of factors and influences that finally makes a single moment of life, and then another and another and another. The man who’s sitting and writing this morning is a product of unimaginably complicated machinery, of an immeasurable system of stimuli and powers. Like most of us, I like to pretend that a separate entity called “I” creates the moments of my life, but that’s simply a fantasy. The fact is that I am as much a product of swirling and inestimable forces as a wisp of smoke is a product of fire or a small strand of my shirt is a product of fields of cotton and factories full of workers. I am here on this couch on this quiet morning because big explosions among the stars happened billions of years ago, starting the inexplicable process that still produces moments of charm and magnificence, like the ones that just transpired as I typed these altogether surprising words.