In search of story

July 8.22: Coping, but barely


A tenth of a billionth of a second.

My brain spins without traction

to comprehend the transience

of such unknowable fraction.

How can such a measure

of time, that slippery eel,

have meaning to poor mortal

like me, the math schlemiel?

Or maybe it’s not numbers

that anaesthetize my mind,

but rather awe and wonder

at our need to seek and find.

Perspectives thus established,

we see our own existence

in terms of what we don’t know

and potential obsolescence.

Are we really that important,

such tiny human spatter,

in view of proton particles

and abysses of dark matter?

I tend to think we are

though I’ve no idea why;

we blow each other up,

and pollute the sea and sky.

Microscope and telescope,

bacterium to star,

but all we have are stories

to explain the way we are.



I’ve been seeing articles, dear reader, about the Large Hadron Collider and the pursuit of dark matter. It’s all dark matter to me, but I do try for some meager understanding. I cannot wrap my mind around such a thing as a tenth of a billionth of a second, but I can marvel at it. As I marvel, it becomes personal. My place in this universe? I’m working on that.

My thanks to Juliana Kim for her NPR article that reminded me of perspective.


16 thoughts on “July 8.22: Coping, but barely

  1. It’s above my pay grade Maureen. How time can be whittled down to a tenth of a billionth of a second is a gazillion light years over my head. Nevertheless I still enjoy seeing photos taken of outer space as well as deep in our oceans. The beauty is breathtaking. I wonder if humans ever inhabited another planet if they would pollute that one to death too!

    I don’t think we’ll ever know the answers to the questions you raise. How do we measure up in all this?

    • I like the way you put it, Ginger: above your pay grade. Exactly my sentiment. I think we can’t help wondering, and maybe worrying, about what we’d do to any other place we’d inhabit. I do think there are many questions we might never be able to answer, but those unanswerables are awfully persistent. I do wonder how we measure up.

  2. I try for some meagre understanding too, but in my case, meagre may be over egging the pudding. You may remember that time fascinates me, though I do not understand it.

    • “Over egging the pudding”???? That is hilarious and wonderful, and is it OK if I use it? What a great expression! Yes, I do remember your fascination with time, and I thought of you as I pondered this impossibility. Not that it’s impossible to have such a small fragment of time (I suppose) but that it’s impossible to know what it means.

      • Of course! I see I should have hyphenated it. You don’t often see it written down. Time is a slippery subject even if we leave the science out of it.

      • I suppose there’s an argument for a hyphen, but it’s a great expression even without. Oh, indeed, slippery even without science. Your comment in the past about the kinds of time was something I’ve pondered.

  3. Very thought provoking. I really love this.

  4. Definitely above my pay grade, and my dinosaur mind has difficulty reading it let alone understanding it. You’re feeling deep, Maureen. You may an additional dose of chocolate today. 🙂 Happy weekend!

  5. Brilliant! I may have to follow your good example!

  6. A beautiful and thought provoking poem. The older I get the more fascinated I become with the vast space beyond. Time and matter are so beyond my understanding but the awesomeness of it all is thrilling.

  7. You’ve captured the pursuit of the tiniest details in the universe in a unique and wonderful way. I like it.

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