I Stared at the Sun

Expectations of a week relatively free of doctor visits were dashed yesterday afternoon when I got a call from my oncologist’s office, informing me that I need to return for three more visits this week. I will return for two to three hours for each: today, tomorrow, and Friday. Monday’s labs revealed an array of both low and high levels of various components of my blood, requiring more infusions and injections. So goes my “vacation” from healthcare. But, of course, I am pleased that the oncological team is keeping such close tabs on me, frustrations to the contrary notwithstanding.


What matters? Not only “what,” but “why?” How do we determine whether ideas, experiences, relationships, and so on have some sort of intrinsic importance or value? And how do we—or can we—determine the legitimacy of that determination? Though the simplest answer may suggest the determination rests entirely on individuals’ decisions about importance and/or value, there must be more to it than that. When we assert that collective decisions about “what matters” is what determines intrinsic importance, we base our assertions on an array of assumptions, many of which we often do not even recognize as having been made. Perhaps morals—principles of proper conduct or beliefs, or the ethical distinction between right and wrong—contribute to our determination of “what matters,” but “something” must undergird those principles. What is that “something?” Religion, some would say. Hmm. Religion simply attempts to articulate morality; but its explanation of the source of “what matters” is essentially arbitrary. I suspect discussions of “what matters” have never reached—and will never reach—a universally agreed conclusion as to the source of importance or value. But thinking about the subject provides limitless opportunities to occupy one’s time. Yet the premise that there is no universally agreed answer to the question suggests that thinking about the question is a waste of one’s time—a pointless exercise in philosophical blathering. Does that matter? Hard to say.


I spent a minute or two this morning watching and listening to a video—courtesy of BBC.com—describing and illustrating (via astrophotography) various aspects of the sun. There was no intrinsic value to me for watching the video; it was pure entertainment and, to a lesser extent, education. I rather like knowing that there is no reason for viewing the video, other than pure interest. I cannot change the sun. I cannot change any aspect of my life on Earth simply by learning a bit about the sun. But, still, viewing and listening (well, reading…the language of the video is Argentinian Spanish) changed me in some small but fundamental way. Not in a way that “matters,” but in a way that feels important. I stared at the sun.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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