During my overly extended, undesired staycation, I’ve had lots of free time. I’m trying to use that time to read more. A decent number of books have fallen to my casual pace. Far more than recent years. During my life in Japan my reading time was dominated mostly with magazines for smart people. National Geographic and Wired, for example. I haven’t touched them in months.
Also, thanks to some nerdy friends I’ve read more fiction than I have since I finished Game of Thrones. The books, not the show. Obviously.
Reading is, of course, fundamental. The book I just finished was “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. A nice light read, perfect for storing in the restroom for guests I imagine. To be honest, if you watched his excellent recent version of Cosmos there is little in here that wasn’t covered in the TV show. Except for roundness. That was new.
Still, highly recommended.
The final chapter of the book has Tyson talking directly to the reader about the wonders of an infinite universe. Rather than letting the vastness of space make you feel insignificant, the author argues that the opposite should be the case. Revel in the fact that you are made of star stuff and can trace your existence back to the origins of the cosmos. Deep shit.
All well and good, but what about Trump?
Barely half a year in, the 45th President has locked in the title of “Worst President ever” for a large population of the country. Obviously, not everyone. That doesn’t mean that he won’t forever be the worst in many people’s minds. Just like Obama is hated by lots of gap toothed, cousin-loving rednecks.
Sorry, that was as mean as healthcare. I wouldn’t want to be accused of inflaming rhetoric.
Now, Trump has built a solid base of facts to earn that title. His personality is undeniably awful. Some people don’t mind that or even think it’s a good way to act towards people who disagree with you. I suppose that is a sad fact of the human condition. Once you choose the team to belong to it is hard to accept anything that tarnishes that distinction.
Ask a Cubs fan if you don’t believe me. I can make that joke because it worked out for them in the end. I wouldn’t put money on the same happening for Trump.
But what does this all mean in a cosmic sense?
What will Trump’s legacy be in a hundred years? A thousand? A million?
Certainly, for most of our lifetimes Trump will be a prominent figure in history textbooks. But how many people today are still mad at Calvin Coolidge? How many can even name him? The man who brought about the Great Depression? Hardly anyone, I would wage. Especially since the President in office immediately prior to the Great Depression was Herbert Hoover.
Human memory is short. The truly outstanding individuals last through the ages but they have little direct effect on actual daily life.
Sure, you might have someone like Julius Ceaser who created the calendar we sort of use today. Except over a thousand years later some pope named George might come along and change it up. Time is long and humans are not. Eventually there will come a time when even Donald Trump is forgotten to history.
This is of course not to say that we should just let him do whatever he wants.
It is vital to resist against the things that will cause pain and suffering to millions of innocents. That’s just common sense. Trump is a symptom of a great disease which weakens America to its core. Our systems are struggling to fight off this infection but they are, for now, holding firm.
The United States is a young country. One of the jokes I often heard from my continental friends in Japan was as follows. “For Europeans, one hundred miles is a long distance and for Americans, one hundred years is a long time.”
You had to be there, I guess.
We’ve got time. When the atoms of the Milky Way have expanded beyond the heat death of the Universe, there won’t be anyone around to worry about cuts to Medicaid. That sounds like a reason to despair. I know the feeling and it’s a struggle to resist every time I check Twitter.
The point of Tyson’s book however, is the opposite. Live this moment for what it is because of the mathematical wonder required to bring it about. The same oxygen molecules that fuel the President’s unhinged tweets are the same that power the protest songs of the Woman’s March.
And they were all created in an astronomical ball of nuclear fire.
Pretty cool if you ask me.