Traveling in the Moment
There’s good news out there, if we know where to look for it
Here’s a tidbit of information to add to your storehouse of trivia: In addition to the thousand miles per hour the Earth is spinning on its axis, astronomers tell us we’re also moving around the sun at about 66,000 miles per hour. Thinking even bigger, our entire solar system is circling the center of the Milky Way galaxy at a mindboggling 483,000 mph. That means in the five or so minutes it takes you to read this, we all will have traveled a cumulative 45,000 miles through space – and without leaving the comfort of our armchairs.
You’d think at these speeds, we’d at least get our hair a little mussed. But thanks to the force of gravity which keeps us, and our hair, relatively stationary, the actual rate of travel is imperceptible. And because the distances involved are so vast, the numbers become almost meaningless – even at these enormous speeds, the entire of human history covers but a tiny speck of one revolution around the galaxy.
Now there’s something comforting in knowing all this. The established rhythms of the universe contrast sharply with the vagaries of everyday headlines. Fires and earthquakes and monster storms, wars and rumors of wars, seem to dominate our daily diet of news, and our consciousness. So knowing“the sun’ll come out tomorrow”(as Little Orphan Annie sings) gives us the hope that – despite evidence to the contrary – the next day will be better than the one just past.
And indeed there is good news to be had. A quick Google search of‘things are getting better facts’returns about 100 million hits, the vast preponderance of which seem to be positive. World hunger is down, infant mortality rates are declining, violent crime rates are decreasing. Of course, these are statistics, and we all know the old saw about lies and statistics. And what about all those pesky pessimistic headlines?
“Headlines are a poor guide to history,”notes Steven Pinker, a Harvard professor of psychology and author of the impossibly upbeat book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Quoted in The Guardian, Pinker says,“People’s sense of danger is warped by the availability of memorable examples – which is why we are more afraid of getting eaten by a shark than falling down the stairs, though the latter is likelier to kill us.” Now there’s a happy thought. The Earth has turned the corner in its annual track around the sun and is hurtling at 66,000 mph down the year’s home stretch. In the northern hemisphere, that brings harvest time and, for most of us, some celebration of thanks for bounty and blessing. Along with friends and family and myriad other good things, I am thankful for my travels – for the places and the people I meet along the way, and for the opportunity to widen my vision and expand my world.
The sun’ll come out tomorrow everywhere in the world, and most of us will find ways to work together to leave it a better place when the sun goes down, whether it’s in China or Europe or Africa or the good ol’US of A. That’s one truth travel reveals; regardless of where we wake up, we all wake up on the same planet. So we might at well make the most of it.
Which means even in the midst of all that’s going on both near and far, I’m happy to get out of my armchair and get on an airplane, on a train, in a car, and speed away to my next experience of the world.
Because sometimes even half a million miles an hour is just not fast enough. BT