The Other I

December 25, 2015

Hope of the light

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 11:48 am

For tens of thousands of years before it was a celebration of Christmas, this time of the year was celebrated as the time of hope.  Because it was the time when the light began to return.  Until less than perhaps a thousand years ago, it was not universally clear why the coming of the sun waxed and waned, and it was never certain that this life-giving sun just might not come back.

Most people in the world today no longer literally worship the sun as a great moody god who must be adored, bribed, and propitiated.  But we are living in a time of possibly unprecedented uncertainty.  There is powerful evidence that we are seriously damaging, possibly even destroying, the environment on which our very lives depend.  We have as much reason for concern as did our ancient ancestors.  Worries about the global destructiveness of war and terrorism, potentially lethal diseases, starvation and drought are not paranoid fantasies but  realistic possibilities.

And although we no longer think the sun worshippers and their virgin sacrifices are what convinced the sun to return each year, we do know that what we humans do will profoundly affect both our short-term and long-term futures.

Will we do what needs to be done to maintain our creative relationship with the universe?  Can we do it?

Yesterday by coincidence I stumbled on an article about Albert Einstein.  I didn’t realize that he’d received the Nobel Prize for his discovery that the atmosphere is chock full of energy generated by the sun.  (I’d always assumed it was for his theories of relativity.)  At first scientists thought Einstein  was wrong.  They didn’t think there was close to an infinite amount of energy floating around us.  And then when they became convinced, nobody knew how to tap this energy at anything like an affordable cost.  Oil, gas, coal, wood were all much much cheaper.

But now that nut is being cracked.  Researchers and companies are discovering how to tap this energy at costs that dwarf the cost of fossil fuels.  It’s already possible to get enough energy to charge a mobile phone for free.  But here are a few of the other possibilities, some of which are already being implemented:

  • a transparent decal-type of addition to windows that turns them effectively into transparent solar panels
  • house paint that generates electricity
  • batteries that store enough electricity to make houses individually independent of the need to be connected to the grid — eliminating the need for electricity companies
  • roads that generate electricity as cars pass over them, so that cars never need to fill up at a gas station
  • solar panels that produce electricity 24-hours a day

These are not pipe dreams.  Some oil companies are so threatened that they are lobbying the US Congress to outlaw it.  Even in this day of big money lobbies, they are unlikely to succeed.   Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Amazon, some oil and electricity companies themselves, even governments in India, China, the US Defense Department in the United States are pouring billions of dollars into this revolutionary — and clean — source of energy.

And so this Christmas – this solstice – this Celebration of Light – does seem to me to be a very special, even unique, Celebration of Hope.

With best wishes for us all as we move into this new year. 

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6 Comments »

  1. oh my oh yes oh thank you for this – love the empowerment underbelly of this message what is often out there is doomsday, negative, generating fear and hopelessness. perhaps no nobel prize for you, terry, for the resurrection of the energy possible life possibilities – my hope is that is inspiring for those of us lucky enough to read this message. this celebration of hope – k

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    Comment by kateritek — December 25, 2015 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

    • Thank you so much for such positive feedback. A colleague (well, former colleague, if one may refer to members of our common institutional heritage as colleagues) remarked to me recently that I don’t have a lot of patience with people who always want somebody else to fix things for them and don’t seem willing to take any personal responsibility for changing things. The kind of people who go to the doctor and want a pill to make them better but don’t want to change their life style, for instance. It took me a while to recognize that kind of impatience with others in myself but I’ve decided it’s true.

      And I guess I feel that way about environmental change deniers too. My problem with them isn’t that they don’t understand the science. It’s that if they deny the problem they don’t have to do anything about destroying the environment.

      Yes, I think we can do it! And the more I look around, the more I see the kind of things we can do – as individuals, as businesses, as governments, as communities. Again, thank you for your feedback.

      Best wishes for a happy new year. (And now I must go and turn off the kitchen light which I’m not using at the moment…)

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      Comment by theotheri — December 26, 2015 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

      • a physical therapist friend of mine recently told me that she has been taking an informal survey of her patients she sees them weekly, giving them “homework” to do for the week – exercises to practice at home that they have done in the session, etc. copays for the sessions range from 25-70 dollars so after spending the money for the treatment – the time and trouble to schlep to the tx center …. 87% failed to do even one day of homework 10% did 3 days……. and then they stop coming because therapy does not work – it is too expensive too far to come too long of a wait to see the therapist. your point exactly.

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        Comment by kateritek — December 26, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  2. I like the comparison with the fear of the sun’s not returning. Very apt. Merry Christmas, Terry.

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    Comment by Tom — December 26, 2015 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, Tom. And Merry Christmas to you, too. Or on a more timely note, since this is now Boxing Day, best wishes for a happy New Year. With hopes that we can renew all our greetings when the end of the next year comes round — which will no doubt happen with the speed of light — as it does these days! Terry

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      Comment by theotheri — December 26, 2015 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  3. Happy New Year!

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    Comment by Tom — December 26, 2015 @ 4:54 pm | Reply


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