I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?
Alan Lightman, MIT’s first professor with dual appointments in science and the humanities and author of the immeasurably brilliant The Accidental Universe, considers our longing for permanence in a fleeting universe, something a different Alan – Watts – contemplated with equal, timeless poignancy half a century ago.
More of Lightman’s singular mind and spirit here.