Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Black Holes and Superblooms

So, ya'll saw this first ever photo of a black hole, right? A grad student, Dr. Katie Bouman, "developed a crucial algorithm that helped devise imaging methods for it,"  according to CNN.


I'm smitten. I like how it's described, too:

"A black hole is a region in space where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing –– not even light –– can escape it, and it only grows as it consumes more and more stars, planets, and gas." New York Times

"The picture is also visual proof of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which states that dense and compact regions of space would suck everything in." CNN

Black holes have always lent themselves perfectly to obvious metaphors, so I won't pile on. The universe is still so impenetrable, isn't it? Call me weird, but knowing that I'm just a blip in the scheme of things gives me peace. It might be why during huge personal crunches -- those times when I'm fully into the who lives like this?! moments, I'm able to disengage and sometimes even eventually laugh at myself and everything else. Another thing -- why do we get all caught up in the idiot running our country? He's running it much as he runs his mouth. Like shit. 

We should just be concentrating on stuff like black holes and people like Alaa Salah, a young woman in Sudan who stood on top of a car during a mass sit-in against Bashir, the president of Sudan. She's become a symbol of the uprising and of the growing movement of female leadership. 

"The bullet doesn't kill. What kills is the silence of the people," she said, reading from a poem.

I'm smitten. Here's her picture:

photographer: Lana Haroun
I'm taken by everyone holding up their little light boxes to record her -- little light boxes that seemingly connect us, one to another, across miles and time. We've known about black holes, somehow, long before we could even take a photo of them. I don't even remotely understand the grappling of scientists and mathematicians and physicists over such things -- what understanding I have comes from the gut, I guess, the sharp intuitive thing I've got going, the threads of stuff filling up my brain, behind my eyes.

Black holes look like eyes, it seems, at least to our eyes.

Things are going on all over the world that make Americans' problem with our shitty leaders seem insignificant. There's nothing new under the sun, it says in ancient books. Women are rising up, literally everywhere and making change.

I got into an argument the other day with one of my girl students, about gun ownership, of all things. She had asked me whether I'd shoot someone who was trying to kill me. I'd told her, No. She was incredulous and upped the ante by asking whether I'd shoot someone threatening my children. I told her how much I disliked hypothetical questions like that because, really, how would we know how we'd react in such a situation? I told her that I had made a sort of pact with myself to eschew violence (yes, I used the word eschew because -- TEACHER). I told her that I hated guns and thought it was unnecessary to carry one for personal protection. I came short of telling her that the 2nd Amendment was bullshit because -- well -- it wasn't appropriate. I told her that killing anyone was kind of like a black hole to me, the ultimate black hole. This young girl's opinion bummed me out. The whole time I was talking to her, I wanted to stop. I wanted to disappear into a black hole. I had never seen a photo of a black hole because there wasn't one, though. I wanted her to disappear into a black hole. I wanted us both to come out on the other side and into the Antelope Valley where the rains have created what we call a superbloom -- so many flowers and so much color that you can see it all from space.


  1. I wasn't expecting that pivot at the end, very deft. Young people are so sure of what they know. Later, life brings more questions. And Alaa Salah is breathtaking! Thank you for the picture.

  2. Yeah- that last sentence. Perfection.
    Our vast smallness brings me comfort too. Funny how the idea of our micro presence in the universe scares the crap out of some people and makes others of us feel relieved. Phew! It's not all on my shoulders, is it?

  3. Your posts are so poetic. Honestly! The Universe IS vast and incomprehensible, and I agree that is a weirdly soothing concept -- that we and all our problems, even global warming and disappearing rhinos and what to us are BIG problems, are really quite small in the grand scheme of things.

  4. Taking the life of another is a heavy burden for your soul to carry. And you're right, none of us knows what we would do under those circumstances.

  5. Oh Elizabeth, this is such a gorgeous piece of writing. The contrast between the black hole and the 'light boxes' is exceptional.

  6. May we all come out on the other side. Thank you for your intuitive vision of everything moving in timeless mystery and being changed in the best of ways.

  7. I love architecture. If I had to describe this post I would say it was an acanthus leaf with a full bodied swirl at the end.



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