Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Church of Science

Who knew? I love, love, love memorizing. It’s been a revelation to discover that memorizing is fun. I might have known, as I can still recite poetry I memorized as a high school student. When I walk alone with Her Highness, I walk reciting my lines aloud. It’s the same when I am driving.

Yesterday I got another 100 words memorized. I reckon I could do 100 a day were I in a hurry, but I’m content to learn 100 and then review, review, review the entire script that I’ve learned by heart.

I hated the idea of Facebook, never having tried it. Now I’ve tried it. It’s okay. But it’s also mighty weird. It feels like a game.   

I don’t know the vocabulary of the interface with FB. I don’t know what my wall is. I enjoyed little chats on some feature that I use to answer messages from “friends.” It’s so creepy how platform features draw you deeper into the game. Liking things, emoji land. It’s all too weird for me. I do not want to play.

However, while I must be on, I’m having fun posting images and links to things I find interesting. I loved science and wanted to be a doctor, but in second year, my dissection course on comparative anatomy, and my medical illustration course ended that ambition. I was far to squeamish for medicine. 

I loved learning about weather, I wrote to television shows, asking them to do stories on geographic features and natural phenomena. And most of all I loved astronomy, and things atmospheric. I was fascinated with volcanoes, rifts, tectonic plate sites, tidal bores, tsunamis (then called tidal waves)—the whole shebang.

And when you have broad interests, as I do, you surrender excellence to others and become the hit of every party because you know a little something about a great many things. An academic year at UBC was 5 courses. I took seven to enable me to study a broader field of subjects. I had no interest in specializing.

I never “did” anything with my interest in science. I thrived in the arts world instead. Now, I post my science porn on Facebook. I don’t say anything personal on that platform, I just post images and links that appeal to the passion I carry for science. Science is my church.

Here’s why I liked astronomy so much when I was young: I was passionately Catholic as a young child, but I could not comprehend God. I didn’t feel anything to hear the word. I transitioned to a boy who behaved like a Catholic, but only when people who needed to see his Catholic interface. But away from judgement, I was not, in any way, invested in Catholic dogma. I had no interest at all in the Bible.

One day I saw a National Film Board film. From a point of view of the earth from out in space, the camera zooms in closer and closer into earth’s atmosphere, and into a Canadian forest, as I recal, and onto the arm of a young boy vacationing with his family. And then the camera enters a pore on his skin, and then into his body. So, when I lay in bed one night, the boy who loves astronomy decided to do the opposite and go forward like a rocket to the edge of the universe—in my imagination.

Well, once Id left our galaxy, I could imagine a space with many galaxies. I knew there was an edge to the galaxy, I’d heard about it and that it was expanding. And as I lay on that bed one night, zooming through the universe, it led me to asking myself: What is the universe in? And, what came before the universe? And my body shook. I am not kidding. It was as if I had touched a live wire. It was a manifestation of my moment of humbling understanding—getting a sudden, immediate emotional understanding of infinity. 

It was beyond my ability to comprehend what the universe was in, and it made me see mystery at the heart of science. I understood my experience as parallel to religious practice. God being the infinite. I experienced my divine epiphany in a scientific context. 

The big moment for me was realizing the profundity of the concept of unknown, and beyond knowing. You hear that kind of thing a lot in faith text—the unknown. It still gives me goose bumps to ask myself, “What’s the universe in?”

I like knowing there are things unknowable. I find that very comforting somehow. And that’s why I like astronomy so much. When preachers talked of Heaven, they pointed up. The Greeks saw gods in the patters of the stars. We call our best entertainers, ‘stars.’ The heavens fascinate us all.

Being with my ‘parents’ made me feel insignificant. That’s the word I put to how I felt all the time. That turned into not wanting to stand out. I got clothes every year from Mrs. Banks in Woodward’s. Connie would phone the store and give Mrs. B. a budget. One year stands out. I remember because of her reaction.

She asked me what colours I liked. And I told her that I wanted to blend in with sofas. She took me by the hand, and we started walking. I thought I was going to get in trouble. But she put be on her chair behind the till, she crouched down, and she said things I don’t remember. What I do remember, was how kind she was and how wonderful it was to have a nice lady be nice to me.

I felt invisible, and when I thought about earth’s position in the infinity of galaxies, I realized that infinity was relative, and so feeling invisible didn’t bother me any more. Science functions truly as a faith for me. It gives me comfort.

I must say this about the Foundation board: I admire and respect it. I greatly respect it. I cannot believe the capacities of Nancy, Dyan, Harvey, Diane, Carol, Don and Mark. I read emails that astound me with their breadth of knowledge and clarity of expression. We are facing big challenges soon. If anyone can handle them, this group can.

I’m the slowest kid in the class, so hitting the mark for them all with our next newsletter has done a great deal for my sense of “earning a place at the table.” I need to feel worthy of my company. 

I got a shitload of praise. It felt so good. Was it my doing? Partly. But we had a board meeting that was a “wake-up call” on fundraising, and the board responded well. My committee must recommend an amount and a plan. No pressure. And Nancy was brilliant. She laid it on the line about our R&R work, so the board till charge the new staff person to spend as much time as possible on assisting the campaign.

All these decisions made it clear to me what had to be said in our newsletter. The morning after the board meeting, they got my newsletter draft that they like so much. It thrills me to know that I can turn discussions of the board’s needs and ambitions into effective communications text. My newsletter is very heavy on detailed information about our campaign and ends with an appeal for funds to help sustain it.

They loved it because it said exactly what they wanted to say to our members to move them to action. I never felt proud when I did technical writing. I felt relieved. With the clinic I’m earning a sense of community, not money. All good. 

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